Eighty-nine-year-old Isabelle McAllister asks a big favor of her hairdresser Dorrie, a young black single mom. Dorrie leaves her own family’s problems behind for a few days and drives Isabelle from her home in Arlington, Texas, to a funeral in Cincinnati. Along the way, Isabelle reveals that as a teenager in her small Kentucky town she secretly fell in love with the son of her family’s black housekeeper. Dorrie doesn’t know whose funeral they are attending when they get to Ohio, but she listens with great patience and curiosity as Isabelle share stories from her past.
Told through flashbacks to the late 1930s and early 1940s, Isabelle’s love story is woven carefully into Dorrie’s more modern day concerns. This debut novel is an historical romance, a contemporary romance, and a compelling issues novel about civil rights and women’s rights all tied up in an emotional page turner that will keep you hooked until the last page and leave you wishing it hadn’t ended so soon.
I started reading this book the same day I heard about it, I stayed up all night reading it, and I still can’t stop thinking about it. Even remembering the story to write this review is giving me chills – it was that good!
All that said, the pacing of the story and the revelations of the plot details are calculated to make the reader sob, and they are effectively done, so stay far away if you don’t want a book with an emotionally moving story. These are memorable characters in an inspiring yet tragic story, perfect for readers who loved Kathryn Stockett’s The Help, or enjoy the latest Nicholas Sparks tearjerker.
In the author acknowledgements at the end she reminds the reader of her book’s message about racism and prejudice: “It’s up to you to be the change.” I believe that reading fiction lets us explore other people’s lives with empathy. Read this book and be the change.
Calling Me Home: a novel by Julie Kibler