Calling Me Home by Julie Kibler

Calling Me Home by Julie Kibler is an impressive, moving debut novel about an unlikely friendship and the life stories shared during a cross-country drive to a funeral.   The two central characters are Isabelle McAllister who is white and Dorrie Curtis who is black.  At eighty-nine Isabelle has few people left in her life, but she has become very close to her thirty-something hairdresser, Dorrie.  When Isabelle is faced with the most difficult journey of her life she turns to Dorrie and asks her for a favor.  With much apprehension Dorrie agrees to drive Isabelle from Arlington, Texas to Cincinnatti, Ohio, knowing only that they need to be there in three days.

As they embark on their adventure the two reserved women begin to open up about their lives.   Dorrie, a single mother of three, speaks about her failed marriage, how she ended up married in the first place and her deep seeded worries that her teenage son is repeating her mistakes.

Isabelle in turn tells Dorrie about her youth growing up as the daughter of a well-respected doctor in 1930’s Kentucky.  As a willful teen Isabelle wanted nothing more than to escape her small town home and her stifling, controlling mother.  One night she slips out of town for a little adventure, but soon regrets her act of rebellion.  Fearing the worst she is suddenly rescued from her predicament by Robert, the black son of her family’s housekeeper.  Grateful and relieved she slips back into town more afraid of being caught than ever ... scared for Robert.  Refusing to allow Isabelle to walk home alone he bravely walks behind her, past the sign declaring that no blacks are allowed in town after dark.

During their drive Dorrie listens raptly as Isabelle confesses that her inappropriate friendship with Robert soon blossoms into an impossible love.  Despite the odds Isabelle becomes determined to find a way for them to be together.

Like Dorrie, we wait for the other shoe to drop, knowing there can be no happy ending and yet hoping beyond hope that there is one.


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