Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Date Published: February 12th 2013
Genres: Contemporary, Historical Fiction, Romance
Audiobook Length: 13 hrs and 36 mins
Audiobook Narrator: Bahni Turpin, Lorna Raver
Description: Eighty-nine-year-old Isabelle McAllister has a big favor to ask her hairdresser, Dorrie. She wants the black single mother to drop everything and drive her from Texas to a funeral in Ohio tomorrow. Dorrie, fleeing problems of her own and curious about Isabelle's past, agrees, not knowing it will be a journey that changes both their lives. Isabelle confesses that, as a teen in 1930s Kentucky, she fell in love with Robert Prewitt, a would-be doctor and the black son of her family's housekeeper in a town where blacks weren't allowed after dark. The tale of their forbidden relationship and its tragic consequences just might help Dorrie find her own way.
I listened to the audio version of Calling Me Home and absolutely loved it. This was a book club selection, and definitely a book outside my comfort zone. I tend to shy away from race books because they are often preachy and can be depressing. While the story in this book is sad, the book ended on a hopeful positive note for Dorrie and had closure for Isabelle.
The book is told in alternating POV between Dorrie and Isabelle. Dorrie’s story is told in present day with her issues she has with her family and men in general, while Isabelle’s story is told in a flashback to 1939. We know that Dorrie is driving Isabelle to a funeral, but we don’t know whose funeral it is. During that road trip Isabelle tells Dorrie her tale of forbidden love and the heartbreak she had to endure.
This review will be spoiler-free so I will just say that I loved Robert and thought the author portrayed him so well that I could understand everything he was going through. I hated Isabelle’s mother. I mean, what kind of mother could do what she did. Isabelle’s father, while a weak person and unable to say no to his wife and sons, does some good privately so I guess he is a bit redeemable. The secret that Robert’s mother and sister kept from Isabelle was horrible, and things could have worked out so much better for everyone had some communication taken place! But, all the right conversations did finally happen at that mysterious funeral and Isabelle was finally able to move on. That final scene took me by surprise even though it made sense. It was just so well written that I didn’t see it coming until the author wanted me to know.
Calling Me Home was beautifully written. This is a stunning debut and I will definitely keep this author on my watch list.
This was a book club read with the super awesome Northwest Houston Book Club and something really exciting happened at the meeting. The author called us! Yes, Julie Kibler (who has an awesome name) called our book club and had an hour-long conversation with us about her awesome book! Did I mention this book club rocks? She answered our questions honestly and gave us some great insight into her story. I’m going to keep this spoiler-free, so I’ll leave out some of the goodies that delve into the plot details.
Julie Kibler told that her inspiration for the story came from true facts:
- Julie Kibler learned several years ago that when her Grandmother was a young woman in Kentucky, she fell in love with a black man. She said it really made her understand her Grandmother better since her Grandmother didn’t appear to be the happy and sweet Grandma that everyone pictures. She assumed that her Grandma’s behavior was due to a lost love and her life not turning out the way she wanted it to. She really doesn’t know the true story because they did not have a close relationship. She wanted to include a present day component to her book to show how the different time periods interact.
- The character of Dorrie is based on her own hairdresser, a black single mom who is a compassionate person and would always listen to her. Julie Kibler decided Isabelle needed to tell her story to someone who would listen.
- She decided to set the book in an area where her own family grew up. Julie Kibler asked her Dad to tell her about his childhood growing up in that era, and he told her about the sundown laws sign.
We asked Julie Kibler about her path to publication and she told us she started writing (in general) when she learned that fact about her Grandmother’s life. She always thought she would be a writer and in 2005 she decided to write a novel. She wrote a few other manuscripts first to learn her craft before starting the work that became Calling Me Home about 3 years ago. Julie Kibler always wanted to be published by a traditional publisher in NY so she got an agent in the summer of 2011 and sold her novel to St. Martin’s Press. 18 months later her book was on the shelves here in the US and in 15 other countries! Interesting tidbit, it was published in Germany first.
She told us how she has two different lives – the life of a published author with traveling to Italy and the UK for the release and publicity, and the other life where she hangs out in sweats. She told us that writing is a long and drawn out process so you have time to learn and still have it only be one component of your life.
We asked her how long it took to write and she told us that she first outlined for about a month to have a road map (hehe for her road trip story). She then wrote for 9 months and revised for 9 more months. Only then did she approach her agent.
We asked her about her influences and Julie Kibler told us she is a huge fan of southern fiction. She read a lot of books with the point of view of a black character to be true to voice and avoid writing stereotypes. She also had her black friends read it and give feedback. She researched the setting and the laws in place at the time her story was set. She told us she tends to jump in and start writing to get the momentum and then do research as she goes along.
We asked her about reader reactions and she said the reactions have been generally positive. She told us some exciting news too! Julie Kibler sold the movie rights in March! Here’s the Hollywood Reporter exclusive article!
She told us a story about her being on a flight and re-reading the last chapters of her book and starting to cry. She said she didn’t cry while writing the scenes, but got emotional after reading what she wrote.
She’s working on a few things here and there but is waiting to settle into the right story to write next. She wants to be passionate about her next story, since she was so passionate about this one.
Julie Kibler is really cool and is going to sign our books for us! We’re going to get all our books together and mail them to her to sign and send back. So even though I did this book on audio, I went ahead and bought the hardback for her to autograph.
Here are the places online where you can hang out with Julie Kibler:
Here’s a photo of us at the Northwest Houston Book Club meeting. (That’s me in brown, second row, second from the left.)