Review: Calling Me Home
Isabelle, an 89 year old white woman, has become great friends with Dorrie, the young black woman who has been styling her hair for the last decade. When Miss Isabelle needs to return to Ohio for a funeral, she asks Dorrie to drive her there. Dorrie quickly agrees and the two head off. Ohio’s almost a thousand miles away, though, so they will be in the car a while. While they make their way north, Miss Isabelle tells Dorrie about her past, finally revealing whose funeral they’ll be attending.
As a young woman, Isabelle was deeply in love with a young black man. Her family didn’t approve and did what they could – even resorting to lies and violence – to keep the two of them apart. It’s a tragic story, to be sure, and it explains a lot about Miss Isabelle. Hearing it makes Dorrie reflect on her own life.
I deliberately left out a lot of the details of Calling Me Home, by Julie Kibler, because I think they’re best discovered as you read the book. The narration alternates between Miss Isabelle’s story in the past and Dorrie’s current day story with Isabelle’s story taking up the bulk of the book.
I really liked this book, but didn’t love it as much as others have. Both Dorrie and Isabelle are wonderful characters but I felt Isabelle’s story dragged at times and I wanted a little more of Dorrie’s. Hopefully that will come in another book.
Kibler writes with so much heart and emotion, I could feel Isabelle’s pain, but her story felt familiar, and even predictable, to me. Still, I needed to know how things turned out and admit to shedding a tear or two at the end. I was fascinated to learn Kibler got the idea for the book when she discovered that her grandmother had been in love with a black man. Calling Me Home won’t make my list of favorites for the year, but I have a feeling it will be on plenty of others.