Calling Me Home (Kibler)

Calling Me Home
Julie Kibler, 2013
St. Martin's Press
336 pp.
ISBN-13: 9781250014528

Calling Me Homeby Julie Kibler is a soaring debut interweaving the story of a heartbreaking, forbidden love in 1930s Kentucky with an unlikely modern-day friendship

Eighty-nine-year-old Isabelle McAllister has a favor to ask her hairdresser Dorrie Curtis. It's a big one. Isabelle wants Dorrie, a black single mom in her thirties, to drop everything to drive her from her home in Arlington, Texas, to a funeral in Cincinnati. With no clear explanation why. Tomorrow.

Dorrie, fleeing problems of her own and curious whether she can unlock the secrets of Isabelle's guarded past, scarcely hesitates before agreeing, not knowing it will be a journey that changes both their lives.

Over the years, Dorrie and Isabelle have developed more than just a business relationship. They are friends. But Dorrie, fretting over the new man in her life and her teenage son’s irresponsible choices, still wonders why Isabelle chose her.

Isabelle confesses that, as a willful teen in 1930s Kentucky, she fell deeply 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 makes it clear Dorrie and Isabelle are headed for a gathering of the utmost importance and that the history of Isabelle's first and greatest love just might help Dorrie find her own way. (From the publisher.)

Read an excerpt.

Author Bio
Julie Kibler began writing Calling Me Home after learning a bit of family lore—as a teen, her paternal grandmother fell in love with a young black man, but their families tore them apart. Then, while digging into the past, she discovered her father’s hometown had signs at the city limits warning blacks to be gone by sundown.

Julie grew up in various towns in Kentucky, New Mexico, and Colorado, then moved to Texas to attend college and stayed because even the strangers were friendly. Aside from writing, she is a freelance editor and tries to keep up with her teenagers and a couple of shelter dogs who don't always appreciate their rescue. She enjoys reading, indie films, folk music, photography and splitting chocolatey desserts with her husband, an engineer who doesn't understand writers, but understands chocolate.

She is currently writing her next novel and blogs regularly with five other women writers, all transplants to North Texas, at What Women Write. Her short memoir, "Final Sale on tires," a true story about her relationship with her other grandmother, appeared in Perigee (Issue 21, July 2008). (From the author's website.)

Book Reviews
Kibler, in alternating first-person narrations, delivers a rousing debut about forbidden love and unexpected friendships over the span of six decades.... [Isabelle,] a woman in her 80s... reveals her former childhood of white privilege in a prejudiced Southern town and her love affair with her maid’s brother, Robert, a black man.... In this compelling tale, Kibler handles decades of race relations with sensitivity and finds a nice balance between the characters.... Drawing from her own family history in Texas, Kibler relays a familiar story in a fresh way.
Publishers Weekly

This is deeply affecting coming-of-age story with radiant characters who will remain with the reader long after the last page is turned.
Romantic Times

In Calling Me Home, Kibler has crafted a wholly original debut.... There’s no denying the pull of Kibler’s story.

From East Texas to Cincinnati, from present-day racism to 1930s segregation, Isabelle and Dorrie,...Isabelle's hairdresser for a decade,...have become friends. Yet, when Isabelle asks Dorrie to drive her cross-country... Isabelle's most secret story comes out. Growing up in a town that persecuted blacks...Isabelle was the last young woman the people of Shalerville, Ky., might have expected to fall in love with a black man. The repercussions of their love shattered their lives, their families, their futures.... Kibler's unsentimental eye makes the problems faced unflinchingly by these women ring true. Love and family defy the expected in this engaging tale.
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions
1. When Isabelle first grows close to Robert, is her interest in him genuine, or does it have more to do with disobeying her parents and her society’s constraints? How does their relationship change as it grows?

2. What attracts Isabelle to Robert? What attracts Robert to Isabelle? In what ways do they compliment each other?

3. Were there moments during their courtship that you, as a reader, felt that they should not continue their relationship because of the risks?

4. What is the most important thing that Isabelle’s story teaches Dorrie? How does she apply Isabelle’s lessons to her relationship with Teague?

5. How do you feel about Dorrie’s choices in dealing with her son’s troubles?

6. What makes Dorrie and Isabelle’s friendship unique? How did you feel about the way they each reacted to others’ assumptions about them?

7. Do you feel that Calling Me Home accurately portrayed today’s lingering racial injustices and resentments?

8. Do you have any sympathy for Isabelle’s mother? What about for Isabelle’s father?

9. How did you feel when you discovered Robert’s fate? Were you surprised to learn whose funeral Isabelle and Dorrie were attending?
(Questions courtesy of the author.)

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