Calling Me Home

Calling Me Home

by Julie Kibler

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Overview

Calling Me Home by Julie Kibler

In Calling Me Home by Julie Kibler, 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 Isabelle from her home in Arlington, Texas, to a funeral in Cincinnati. With no clear explanation why. Tomorrow.

Curious whether she can unlock the secrets of Isabelle's guarded past, she agrees, 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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250020437
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 01/07/2014
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 93,204
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.10(d)

About 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.

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

Reading Group Guide

Reading group questions for Calling Me Home:

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? Do you have a close relationship with your hairstylist? If not, do you think Dorrie and Isabelle's friendship is more unique to Isabelle's generation?

7. Do you feel that Calling Me Home accurately portrayed today's lingering racial injustices and resentments? Did Calling Me Home cause you to examine your own prejudices, if any? Has it inspired you to think or act differently? How?

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?

10. Have you ever experienced a forbidden love relationship, or has anyone in your life fallen in love with someone "inappropriate" due to family or societal constraints? How did reading this story make you feel about that relationship? Did it change any of your thoughts or beliefs about how the relationship played out?

11. Did you enjoy the dual narratives in the past and present day? Were you more interested in one or the other? Why?

12. What was your reaction to learning the story was inspired by the author's own family lore (Her father told her that her grandmother fell in love with a black man in an era and locale that made it impossible)? Does knowing that make the story feel more "real?"

13. Had you heard of "sundown towns" before reading this story? What was your experience with them, if so, and what was your reaction to learning about them, if not?

Customer Reviews

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Calling Me Home: A Novel 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 107 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I've never written a review for a book before, no matter how good or bad I thought the book may have been. I'm making an exception for this book, however. I simply can't describe how involved I became with these characters and how I seemed to feel their every emotion. Did not want this story to end and found myself in tears a few times along the way. Read this book. It will not let you down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Absolutely incredible book! It's been a long time since I've read something that provoked so much emotion inside of me. Isabelle's story is incredibly touching, heartwrenching, and beautiful. Great read and I highly recommmend it!
anovelreview_blogspot_com More than 1 year ago
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.
cloggiedownunder More than 1 year ago
Calling Me Home is the first novel by American author, Julie Kibler. When eighty-nine-year-old Miss Isabelle asks her black hairdresser, Dorrie to drive her from Texas to Ohio, Dorrie realises it must be for a very good reason. Single mother of a teenaged boy and girl, Dorrie welcomes the break from her busy life and the new man on the scene who seems too good to be true. As they head toward Cincinnati, and what Dorrie gathers to be a funeral, Miss Isabelle shares memories of her life as a young woman in a very white Kentucky community. A life with a forceful mother for whom appearance was everything, a liberal-minded father too cautious  to take a public stand, a pair of arrogant, racist brothers and black servants who were more family to Isabelle than her own kin. She also reveals her first love, her one true love.  The narrative is alternates between two time periods: the events of 1940s are told by Miss Isabelle; the present day happenings are related by Dorrie, touching on the road trip and the dramas of her own family life as well as forming a break from Miss Isabelle’s story and reflecting on that. Kibler’s novel deals with racial discrimination, segregation and intermarriage, as well as sexual discrimination. Her characters are multi-faceted and appealing and her representation of 1940’s Ohio feels authentic. Often funny, and at times, heartbreaking, this is a heart-warming story with a surprise twist near the end. An impressive debut.
Shana-04 More than 1 year ago
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. 
quaintinns More than 1 year ago
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!!
Skybird1941 More than 1 year ago
I would recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a great read. It makes you really care what happens to the characters, and the ending is a surprise that I didn't expect!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wonderful! Touching! Beautiful life lessons. Love even if your heart breaks.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
All I can say is that I couldn’t put this wonderful book down. The details of the characters and story are so very well written. You must read this for you will not be let down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Beautiful story of lives ripped apart by love and racism.
Irene Olson More than 1 year ago
One wouldn't think a novel such as this would create suspense for readers, but it certainly succeeded in doing so for this reader. Ms. Kibler's characters were so clearly portrayed, I felt a closeness to them right from the beginning. This is a story about relationships, heartache, and the effects of intolerance on those who are simply trying to live a life filled with happiness, fulfilling love, and satisfying family relationships. So many of us take those characteristics for granted. You will no longer do so once you've met Calling Me Home's extraordinary people.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a good read and well written. Engaging story which alternates between present day and the 1930's - 40's.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The narrative switches between characters. It could have been better if that had't been case because every chapter from one particular character was unnecessory to the story. At times I wanted to skip over her chapters.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was pulled right into Isabelle's life, the era, the tensions and especially her first and one true love. The circumstances, challenges and outcomes for both Isabelle and Robert were sweet and then utterly heartbreaking.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Beautiful. Heartbreakingly tragic. Powerful.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Enjoyed this very much.
USCG_Mom More than 1 year ago
The book was very good. I had to keep reading. I was drawn in from the first page. The ending left me speechless and crying. When a book can reach that emotional level, it is a must read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I can't imagine not getting wrapped up in the story of Isabelle - and the heart wrenching details that develop a life
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Really enjoyed the parts of the past in the book!  Great read! 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago