Calling Me Home1/2/2013
Courtesy of Beaverdale Books
Reviewed by Fay Jones
St. Martin’s Press
Julie Kibler’s debut novel tells the story of two women as they embark on a unique road trip. While traveling from Texas to Northern Kentucky, a compelling narrative unfolds, and the reader has the privilege of getting comfortable in the back seat, eavesdropping on the conversation.
Dorrie is a young, black, single mother of two, proudly making ends meet and providing for her kids by owning her own hair salon. Her loyal customers and hard work help ensure that the business succeeds. She has been doing Miss Isabelle’s hair for years and has taken a special liking to the elderly, white woman. As their relationship developed over time, Dorrie began to stop by Isabelle’s house to check on her and assist with small chores. When Isabelle asks Dorrie to drive her hundreds of miles so she can attend a funeral, Dorrie senses the importance of the mysterious request and agrees.
As they drive, Kibler allows the women to tell their stories, using alternating chapters: For the bulk of the novel, Dorrie narrates from present day, while Isabelle reminisces about her young adulthood in 1930s Kentucky. As the miles tick by, Isabelle reveals the tender, startling story of her forbidden love for a young black man and the relationship they had when they were young. We learn about Dorrie as well, of her struggles with her children and with her own love affairs.
As the two make their journey, their unlikely friendship strengthens, especially as Isabelle reveals her painful, secret past, and Dorrie embraces and supports her. The stories are interesting enough to read as the characters travel along, but Kibler’s greatest strength is in delivering the final moments of the novel. Isabelle finishes her touching story as the two arrive in Kentucky at the funeral home, and Kibler enhances the tale with powerful emotion and a bittersweet twist that perfectly ends the novel and will leave the reader with a breaking heart. CV