Calling Me Home: A Novel

( 77 )

Overview

Calling Me Home by 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. ...

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Calling Me Home

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Overview

Calling Me Home by 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.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Kibler, in alternating first-person narrations, delivers a rousing debut about forbidden love and unexpected friendships over the span of six decades. Dorrie, an African-American hairstylist in East Texas, is asked by one of her regular clients, Isabelle, a woman in her 80s, for a strange favor—a ride to Cincinnati. On the road, Dorrie learns of Isabelle’s painful past. Both in conversations in the car and via flashback from her teenage years, Isabelle 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. She and Robert married in secret only to find their clandestine relationship quickly torn apart. After giving up Robert for lost, Isabelle married again—this time for convenience, but Robert’s return forces her to confront difficult questions about love, commitment, and her antagonistic relationship with her family. Now, as Dorrie and Isabelle reach Cincinnati, Isabelle reveals her reasons for going—to attend a funeral, which uncovers long-held emotions and secrets buried for 60 years. In this compelling tale, Kibler handles decades of race relations with sensitivity and finds a nice balance between the characters of Dorrie and Isabelle. Drawing from her own family history in Texas, Kibler relays a familiar story in a fresh way. Agent: Elisabeth Weed, Weed Literary. (Feb.)
From the Publisher

"Kibler’s unsentimental eye makes the problems faced unflinchingly by [Isabelle and Dorrie] ring true. Love and family defy the expected in this engaging tale." —Kirkus

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

"A rousing debut about forbidden love and unexpected friendships. . . . In this compelling tale, Kibler handles decades of race relations with sensitivity and finds a nice balance between the characters of Dorrie and Isabelle. 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

“You’d never guess that Calling Me Home is a debut novel, Julie Kibler’s writing is so wise and assured. Although the two strong women she’s created come from completely different backgrounds, the bond that grows between them is extraordinary, touching and believable. I laughed out loud in places and had tears in my eyes as I turned the last page. I can’t wait to watch Julie Kibler’s star rise!” –New York Times bestselling author Diane Chamberlain

"Clear your schedule before you open up this thoroughly engaging book. CALLING ME HOME is a story about love in its many incarnations—in romance, friendships, and families; loves lost, and love regained. Kibler illuminates racial tensions many of us don’t realize still exist in this country, and shows how small acts of faith can make big inroads to acceptance. I closed the final page with a smile and a tear, humbled and eager to embrace life." - Margaret Dilloway, author of How to Be an American Housewife

"Pop some corn and grab a hankie before you start CALLING ME HOME because you won't want to put it down until you come to the end of this true journey of the heart." - Carleen Brice, author of Orange Mint and Honey

"Calling Me Home is a tenderly wrought story of love and secrets, heartbreak and healing, and the remarkable power of friendship to heal two women who find each other across the lines of time, generation, and race. Julie Kibler has written an original and moving debut novel that will linger with you for a long, long time." —Barbara O'Neal, The Garden of Happy Endings

“Julie Kibler grabbed me on the very first page and didn’t let go…What a marvel of a debut novel.  Black and white, young and old, searching and missing and finding in each other a special understanding, companionship, and love, these characters are real and addictive. Calling Me Home was keenly conceived, impeccably plotted, and beautifully written.”  –Barbara Delinsky, New York Times bestselling author of Escape and Not My Daughter

“Touching and unforgettable, Julie Kibler’s CALLING ME HOME is the kind of story that pulls you in from page one, grips your heart and absolutely won’t let go.”  —Sarah Jio, author of The Violets of March and The Bungalow

"Calling Me Home is journey into the heart where secrets hide and love reigns. Across the bridge of race and generation, Julie Kibler brings together two  who profoundly influence each other as they reveal their stories and their heartbreak. With a stunning plot twist, Kibler reminds the reader that things aren't always as they appear and love has its own life." —Patti Callahan Henry, New York Times bestselling author of Coming Up For Air

"If Julie Kibler's novel Calling Me Home were a young woman, her grandmother would be To Kill a Mockingbird, her sister would be The Help and her cousin would be The Notebook. But even with such iconic relatives, Calling Me Home stands on her own; this novel uncovers a painful past that tells us so much about who we are, where we're going, and the people who are traveling with us." –Wiley Cash, New York Times bestselling author of A Land More Kind Than Home

Library Journal
Dorrie, a strong-willed African American, has a full, busy life as a single mother and hair-salon owner, but she makes time for Isabelle, her client and friend of many years. Because Isabelle is pushing 90, she can no longer drive and asks Dorrie for an extraordinary favor, to accompany her on a road trip from east Texas to Cincinnati to attend a funeral. As the miles unfold, Isabelle begins to recount her memories as a privileged young white girl growing up in 1930s Kentucky; her first love, the son of the African American housekeeper, and the tragic events that followed. VERDICT Debut author Kibler has written a moving tale of young, idealistic love in a headlong conflict with the reality of the injustices of that era. In the same vein as Kathryn Stockett's The Help, Kibler's story touches on multiple historical aspects of racial inequality and segregation as well as the lingering prejudice still evident in modern times. [See Prepub Alert, 8/9/12.]—Joy Gunn, Henderson Libs., NV
Kirkus Reviews
From East Texas to Cincinnati, from present-day racism to 1930s segregation, Isabelle and Dorrie travel together, a most unlikely pair of companions, and their stories unfold. After having been Isabelle's hairdresser for a decade, Dorrie thinks she knows Isabelle pretty well, even though Isabelle is a 90-something white woman and she is a 30-something black woman and even though Isabelle grew up privileged and she has struggled to begin her own shop. Over time, the women have bonded over shared stories, stories about Dorrie's divorce and Isabelle's favorite soap operas. And over time, they have become friends. Yet, when Isabelle asks Dorrie to drive her cross-country to a funeral, Dorrie is taken aback. It's easy enough to ask her mother to care for her children, but telling Teague, her new boyfriend, is another matter. Their relationship is still new, still tentative, and Dorrie has been burned by men too often. Once on the road, Isabelle's most secret story comes out. Growing up in a town that persecuted blacks who dared to stay after sunset, and under the thumb of a mother watching her daughter's every movement, 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. Yet, their story isn't finished, and Dorrie wonders what lingers and whose funeral they are headed toward. As she puts the puzzle of Isabelle together, Dorrie has worries of her own. Can she trust Teague? Why have her son and his girlfriend stopped planning for the prom? Kibler's unsentimental eye makes the problems faced unflinchingly by these women ring true. Love and family defy the expected in this engaging tale.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781470838959
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.
  • Publication date: 2/12/2013
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Unabridged
  • Pages: 9
  • Sales rank: 689,021
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 5.80 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

JULIE KIBLER began writing Calling Me Home after learning a bit of family lore: as a young woman, her grandmother fell in love with a young black man in an era and locale that made the relationship impossible. When not writing, she enjoys travel, independent films, music, photography, and corralling her teenagers and rescue dogs. She lives in Arlington, Texas. Calling Me Home is her debut.

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Read an Excerpt

1

 

Miss Isabelle, Present Day

 

 

I ACTED HATEFUL to Dorrie the first time we met, a decade or so ago. A person gets up in years and she forgets to use her filters. Or she’s beyond caring. Dorrie thought I didn’t care for the color of her skin. No truth to that at all. Yes, I was angry, but only because my beauty operator—hairdresser they call them these days, or stylist, which sounds so uppity—left with no notice. I walked all the way into the shop, which is no small effort when you’re old, and the girl at the counter told me my regular girl had quit. While I stood there blinking my eyes, fit to be tied, she studied the appointment book. With a funny smile, she said, “Dorrie has an opening. She could do you almost right away.”

Presently, Dorrie called me over, and certainly, her looks surprised me—she was the only African-American in the place, as far as I could tell. But here was the real problem: change. I didn’t like it. People who didn’t know how I liked my hair. People who made the cape too tight around my neck. People who went away without any warning. I needed a minute, and I guess it showed. Even at eighty, I liked my routine, and the older I get, the more it matters. Picture me now at almost ninety.

 

Ninety. I’m old enough to be Dorrie’s white-haired grandmother. And then some. That much is obvious. But Dorrie? She probably doesn’t even know she’s become like the daughter I never had. For the longest time, I followed her from salon to salon—when she wouldn’t settle down and stay put. She’s happier now, has her own shop these days, but she comes to me. Like a daughter would.

We always talk when Dorrie comes. At first, when I met her, it was just the regular stuff. The weather. News stories. My soap operas and game shows, her reality TV and sitcoms. Anything to pass the time while she washed and styled my hair. But over time, when you see the same person week after week, year after year, for an hour or more, things can go a bit deeper. Dorrie started talking about her kids, her crazy ex-husband, and how she hoped to open her own shop one day, then all the work that entailed. I’m a good listener.

Sometimes, she’d ask me about things, too. Once she started coming to my house, and we got comfortable in our routine, she asked about the pictures on my walls, the keepsakes I have on display here and there. Those were easy enough to tell about.

It’s funny how sometimes you find a friend—in the likely places—and almost immediately, you can talk about anything. But more often than not, after the initial blush, you find you really have nothing in common. With others, you believe you’ll never be more than acquaintances. You’re so different, after all. But then this thing surprises you, sticking longer than you ever predicted, and you begin to rely on it, and that relationship whittles down your walls, little by little, until you realize you know that one person better than almost anyone. You’re really and truly friends.

It’s like that with Dorrie and me. Who would have thought ten years later we’d still be doing business together, but so much more, as well. That we’d not only be talking about our shows but sometimes watching them together. That she’d be making excuses to stop by several days a week, asking if I need her to run any errands for me—wanting to know if I’m out of milk or eggs, if I need to go to the bank. That I’d be making sure when I ride the cart around the grocery store, after the Handitran drops me off, I put a six-pack of her favorite soft drink in the basket so she’ll have something to wet her whistle before she starts on my hair.

One time, a few years back, she looked embarrassed when she started to ask me a question. She stopped mid-sentence.

“What?” I said. “Cat got your tongue? That’s a first.”

 

“Oh, Miss Isabelle, I know you wouldn’t be interested. Never mind.”

 

“Okay,” I said. I was never one to pick something out of people that they didn’t want to tell.

 

“Well, since you begged me…” She grinned. “Stevie’s got this concert at school Thursday night. He’s got a solo—on the trumpet. You know he plays the trumpet?”

“How could I miss it, Dorrie? You’ve been telling me about it for three years, since he auditioned.”

 

“I know, Miss Isabelle. I’m kind of over-the-top proud when it comes to the kids. Anyway, would you like to come with me? To see him play?”

 

I thought about it for a minute. Not because there was any question whether I wanted to go, but because I was a little overcome. It took too long for me to find my voice.

“It’s okay, Miss Isabelle. Don’t feel like you have to. My feelings won’t be hurt and—”

 

“No! I’d love to. In fact, I can’t think of anything I’d rather do Thursday.”

 

She laughed. It’s not like I ever went anywhere, and Thursday was a boring night for television that year.

Since then, it hasn’t been uncommon for her to take me along when the kids have special events. Heaven knows, their father usually forgets to show up. Dorrie’s mother usually comes, too, and we have nice little chats, but I always wonder what she thinks about my being there. She studies me with a shade of curiosity, as though she can’t fathom any reason for Dorrie and me to be friends.

 

But there’s still so much Dorrie doesn’t know. Things nobody knows. If I were going to tell anyone, it would likely be her. It would definitely be her. And I think it’s time. More than anyone, I trust her not to judge me, not to question the way things happened and the way things turned out.

 

So here I am, asking her to drive me all the way from Texas to Cincinnati, halfway across the country, to help me tend to things. I’m not too proud to admit I can’t do this alone. I’ve done plenty for myself, by myself, as long as I can remember.

But this? No. This I can’t do alone. And I don’t want to anyway. I want my daughter; I want Dorrie.

 

Copyright © 2013 by Julie Kibler

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 77 )
Rating Distribution

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(53)

4 Star

(16)

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(5)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 77 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 13, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Calling Me Home is a story that interweaves past with present, a

    Calling Me Home is a story that interweaves past with present, as Miss Isabelle McCallister and her friend/hairdresser Dorrie make a cross country trip to a funeral. Miss Isabelle is an elderly woman living alone and has asked Dorrie a young single black hairdresser to drive her from Texas to Cincinnati. With Dorrie's crazy life, she kinda will get a break from everything going on at home plus the added bonus of learning a bit more about Isabelle's guarded past.




    As the head out of town, Miss Isabelle begins her story...Kentucky 1939. With miles of road behind them she shares the story of her true love, a forbidden love. 17 year old Isabelle had fallen in love with 18 year old Robert Prewitt, a black youth whose mother worked for Isabelle's family. The closer they get to Cincinnati the more Dorrie learns of Isabelle's heartbreaking story and realizes the funeral is of utmost importance.




    While driving, Dorrie's hectic life seems to be following her. She feels pressed with her own son and with the new man in her life. But as she sits and listens to Miss Isabelle's story she quickly realizes there are many truths in her story that Dorrie can use in her own life. Once at the funeral, when all the truth is revealed the two women are more connected than ever.




    What can I say? I loved Calling Me Home! With the beginning of the romance you can't help but think oh no! Not in that time! You know what was done to young black boys if they even looked at a white women back then! I wanted to talk some sense into her, but at the same time you want them together because they love each other! It's a struggle reading about the appalling treatment...it's like you read and realize how far things have come and at the same time realize there is so much more to be done.




    This is a book you really don't want to put down. You can't help but want to know what's next and I LOVED how Dorrie was not just another person is the story, but was also hearing the story just as I was. I sat with this book crying as it came to an end.




    I highly recommend Calling Me Home.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 6, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    Outstanding Debut Novel!

    A poignant, debut novel – a winner out of the gate, filled with careful description and woven skillfully! A vivid, engaging first book with strong characters, dramatic storytelling, which should establish Julie Kibler as a strong novelist. She most definitely possesses a gift of telling a tragic story, in an entertaining way with an inspiring takeaway of friendship and love. (She has just been added to my favorite author list, and so look forward to following this author)!

    A complex and compelling portrait of the painful intricacies of love, loyalty, discrimination, and racial tensions. An insightful story of two women caught between their hearts, families, and their future.

    Calling Me Home is no ordinary love story; however, a book of astonishing precision from past to present, from one younger black woman and an older white woman; raw, painful, beautiful feelings told in honesty, unfolding precisely and eloquently, during this long road trip between friends of two different eras and color.

    The real magic of the book was the subject matter of two families (black/white) trying to survive in an era in which men and women found themselves bound by strict constraints, dictated by society and ignorance. A heart felt story and forbidden love of two people –fighting for a life they so deserve – a fearless, heart wrenching story about the power of true love and friendship.

    There was much depth and power to this relationship between Robert/Isabelle; a timeless love derailed by others, secrets, and an era which did not accept this sort of relationship between a man and woman. A complex tapestry of lives intertwined, a compassionate story of those who are destroyed by love by secrets and betrayal.

    There is warmth and love, even with such painful subjects, as the bond these two women share, not bound by blood, but by a friendship which changes Dottie’s life and her future, is remarkable – a portrait of resilience told with clarity and painful precision, probing the dark history of Isabelle’s past with a few surprises readers will love before it ends, making you smile.

    An emotionally charged, absorbing novel about friends, lovers, secrets, and families. Kibler’s sensitive and gripping examination of a family’s past is engaging from the beginning and gets better with every chapter, with unforgettable characters. Eloquently told and making it more special, the author’s insight into the subject matter from her family’s history. A powerful and memorable story you will not soon forget. Ideal for book clubs and discussions - A winner!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 20, 2013

    Great heartfelt book

    Could not put it down

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 9, 2013

    This story takes you back to a time when interracial love was a

    This story takes you back to a time when interracial love was a scary thing. The characters in this novel jump out of the pages, I immediately became very attached to them. Their emotions became my own emotions. I couldn't put this book down! It was a great read for those who like historical fictions and love stories. The characters are witty, emotional, and down to earth ... they felt very real. This story draws you in and will keep you interested until the very last page. I didn’t find any lulls in the story either, I often hate when an author goes on and on describing something simple like a tree. This author's level of description was just enough to be able to visualize the scene, but kept the novel flowing. Great novel, I highly recommend this book!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 23, 2013

    With her debut novel, Calling Me Home, Julie Kibler has taken a

    With her debut novel, Calling Me Home, Julie Kibler has taken a sensitive subject, wrapped it in emotion, and weaved together a story in a way that left my heart alternately racing and aching. I can see why early reviews compared Calling Me Home to The Help. I loved the dual story lines with present and past and how she ties the two to each other in the end. I cried when I turned the last page because I didn't want to stop reading. 

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 21, 2013

    This debut novel caught me from the first few pages. Kibler's s

    This debut novel caught me from the first few pages. Kibler's story takes you inside the heads and hearts of Miss Isabelle and Dorrie so that you feel you are right there in the car with them. The two women's stories are interwoven with ease so that the story flows from present to past and back again, carrying the reader along with it. There are parts that made me uncomfortable, but in a good way. The love story at the heart of this book is one of a forbidden relationship, and my heart broke for Isabelle and Robert that it even had to matter. The friendship between Dorrie and Isabelle made me smile as they were at times tender and then in the next moment fractious, and more and more like a mother and daughter. Hold on to your heart as you reach the end. Julie Kibler has crafted an end to her tale that is oh so heartrending, and yet sweetly satisfying. I highly recommend this book - it is one of the best I've read in years. Can't wait until it's made into a movie.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 26, 2014

    A great read!!!

    Just read CALLING ME HOME for book club and thought it was very well written about a difficult subject. Race Relations the 30's were precarious and Kinler nailed it. The family dynamics were hauntingly truthful for the times. The author drew you inn emotionally into several scenarios and you feel as if you are involved yourself. Really a wonderful book regarding racial and family dynamics.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 16, 2014

    Good book.

    This book shows you that family are not always what you think they are. Also, how well do you really know someone's history?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 14, 2014

    Calling Me Home was an unforgetable read

    This is one of those books that you immediately connect with the characters . I could not put this book down. It is well written and draws the reader in immediately.

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  • Posted July 7, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    I couldn't put the book down. I loved the way the story goes th

    I couldn't put the book down. I loved the way the story goes through Miss Isabelle's past and the present. The characters were great. The love story between Robert and Isabelle touched me deeply. This book had me laugh in some parts and cry at others. I loved it! 

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 29, 2014

    Beautiful story!!

    This book is an amazing story!! Do yourself a favor and add it to your collection!! I truly hope this author writes many more!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 24, 2014

    A great read. Recommend to others

    This book was recommended to me and I enjoyed although at times it made me feel "edgy" Having lived through that time when
    African Americans had to be out of the city of Inglewood, CA by sundown. Makes me sad to think how unjust that was and this book
    reiterates that fact. Also, the ending was the right way to tie up the story in a bow.
    I look forward to reading another Julie Kibler books.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 9, 2014

    FAVORITE!

    This book took me from the beginning! Never a slow part. I couldn't stop turning the pages. A must read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 8, 2014

    Great book

    Read this book after I finished The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd. This book is an awesome story of true friendship!

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  • Posted May 2, 2014

    exceptional story of love denied

    this was one of those stories that grabbed me from the first page and didn't let go.

    a tragic story of family, love, racial injustice and the complexities of life in the south before ww2. sometimes the only choice we have is to go on despite the pain.

    i would highly recommend this book

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  • Posted April 4, 2014

    Superb story, and a knockout debut!  I look forward to more from

    Superb story, and a knockout debut!  I look forward to more from this author - she has amazing storytelling skills.  This book touches on so many emotions and has one heck of a twist at the end, that, as hard as I tried to guess, I was still surprised.  Purely phenomenal. 

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 7, 2014

    Wonderful

    A wonderful ride with two amazing women. Miss Isabelle asks here hairdresser Dorrie to take her from Texas to Cinncinnati to attend a funeral. The novel goes back and forth from Isabells past to the current journey. The reader doesn't know who the funeral is for until nearing the books end but the journey is well worth the wait.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 7, 2014

    A must read.

    I loved this book! It was a great story. I will definitely read another book written by Julie Kibler.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 26, 2014

    AWESOME!! This has to be one of the best books that I have read.

    AWESOME!! This has to be one of the best books that I have read. Such a touching story with so much emotion. It was very hard for me to put down. Toward the end of the book, I actually had to stop for awhile because I was crying so much that I could not see the words. I can't remember the last time that a book had this effect on me. This is one book you don't want to miss. I look forward to the next book by Julie Kibler.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 15, 2014

    Outstanding!

    Totally enjoyed! Would read this author again

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