M&M Review: Calling Me Home by Julie Kibler

Dear Julie,

Thank you. This story really touched me and the final twist had me grabbing the tissues and depressed for Elizabeth, as if she was real and I knew her personally.

When I first purchased this book my expectations were low. I figured it would be the same as a lot of the other books on racial tension in the Deep South post Jim Crow regulations, but I was pleasantly surprised. I took two major gems from this story. Firstly, a reminder to not judge people by their appearances or apparent privilege, as everyone is fighting their own unique battle in life. Secondly, one of the biggest tragedies in life is when people allow the fear of judgement to stop them from doing what is right and standing up for their beliefs. Courage to stand tall even when you are outnumbered is so important.

The novel was inspired by the experiences of your grandmother, who also engaged in a romantic interracial relationship in a time when that was seen as shocking and inappropriate. The passages detailing the early stages of protagonist Elizabeth McAllister and Robert Prewitt’s courtship were told in such a delicate and romantic way. This particularly struck me because usually when taboo subjects are discussed there is a degree of sensationalism and fetishisation of skin colour, but you allowed their unique chemistry to do the talking.

Even during their sex scenes, there were no 50 Shades type shock tactics used, it was purely an expression of their adoration for one another. The slow build up of their relationship, their short-lived marriage and the consequences that occurred afterwards all leave readers rooting for the young couple, despite all the adversity they face. As a woman who grew up on Disney movies, their tender bond had me grinning at the book like a crazy person and wishing for a happy ending; although the former clues along the way gave me due warning that the poor couple were never going to have their fairy tale ending.

Technically it was a very easy read, with its alternating short chapters between past and present and your vivid use of description, which had me picturing the entire tale on the silver screen. The dialogue between characters was concise, but packed a punch in its social commentary and use of compassion. It is a difficult task to broach the topic of violence without apparent bias or judgement and you managed it effortlessly.

I loved how you intertwined and compared the struggles minorities faced in the 1930/40’s with the contemporary challenges we, as a society, still need to work on in the pursuance of equality for all. Dorrie Curtis’ character was so relatable, as someone who was learning from her bad decisions and trying to do better for her children than her mother had done for her. That scene when her son revealed his poor choices had me wanting to kill him for her and I’m not even a parent yet.

I have a soft spot for any writer who manages to give a vocabulary lesson to their readers within the narrative and you incorporated this perfectly using the very ordinary vehicle of crossword puzzles during the long car journey. Genius!

Overall, it was a great read that was mind-blowing in its simple approach to race relations and forbidden love. You deserve all the kudos in the world for this being your debut novel and I cannot wait to read your future releases. Grab your copy now!

If you enjoyed this review check out my countdown of the top ten books and films that changed how I see the world for more literary diamonds.

How do you feel about the race-related struggles Elizabeth and Robert faced? Take a look at my thoughts on racism in the media.

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