Sunday, October 13, 2013

#57 (2013/CBR5) "Calling Me Home" by Julie Kibler

I found Calling Me Home (2013) by Julie Kibler from another Cannonball review. The review intrigued me, so when I saw the book just sitting there in the library, I had to grab it. I've often found that stories based on personal experiences and lives often feel more compelling and true than others. I think this is the case with Calling Me Home.

Author Julie Kibler heard a story about how her grandmother had fallen in love with a young black man when she was a teenager. I don't know how closely Kibler followed her grandmother's story in this book-or even how many details she learned about her grandmother's old love, but she is the inspiration for this story. We meet Isabelle McAllister as an elderly woman living alone in Texas. As the story unfolds, we learn about Isabelle's teenage years in small-town Kentucky in the 1930's, and the impossible romance that develops between her and Robert Prewitt, the son of her family's housekeeper.

The secondary story in Calling Me Home is that of Dorrie Curtis, a single mother in her thirties and Isabelle's present day hair stylist. Kibler goes into some detail of Curtis's current struggles and the relationship between the two women, despite their different ages and races. This story is also based in part on Kibler's life--the longstanding relationship with her own hairdresser.

I really enjoyed reading this book. The three main characters were all likable and relatable. The growing attraction and love between Robert and Isabelle captured the intense feelings, optimism, and disregard for consequences of first love and felt very real. In addition, the difficulties the two faced in their relationship was managed without the melodramatic teaching points shouting "racism is bad." Isabelle and Robert fell in love because they were perfect for each other. It had nothing to do with their respective races. And even though race and gender defined how they were able to live their lives, their story felt more personal than pedantic.

I really enjoyed reading this one and would recommend it. I learned they were going to make a movie. I think it could go either way. With good acting and good directing, it could be fantastic, but put in the wrong hands and this sweet story could be ruined. I'm really hoping for the former.

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