Summary and book reviews of Calling Me Home by Julie Kibler

Calling Me Home

by Julie Kibler

Calling Me Home
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2013, 336 pages
    Jan 2014, 352 pages

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Book Summary

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.

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 ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  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 complement 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 ...
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BookBrowse Review


Calling Me Home is an outstanding debut novel! Alternating between the present and 1930/40s, the author draws you into the lives and conversations between an elderly white woman and a young black hairdresser as they drive from Texas to Ohio. Both women have secrets that they have guarded but end up sharing with each other. In reading the novel, issues such as race, love, family, and segregation are dealt with in a sensitive manner.   (Reviewed by BookBrowse First Impression Reviewers).

Full Review Members Only (593 words).

Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly

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.

Kirkus Reviews

Kibler's unsentimental eye makes the problems faced unflinchingly by these women ring true. Love and family defy the expected in this engaging tale.


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

Author Blurb New York Times bestselling author Diane Chamberlain
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!

Author Blurb Margaret Dilloway, author of How to Be an American Housewife
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.

Author Blurb Carleen Brice, author of Orange Mint and Honey
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.

Reader Reviews

Cloggie Downunder

An impressive debut.
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 ...   Read More

Noel Keller

My first New Year's Gift
I began this book two days ago and never put it down. It is a terrific read and leaves you with much to think about. That is after you put the tissues down....

Beverly F. Mindlin

Calling Me Home
This book is so charming that when I finished it I wanted to read it again. It is a story of friendship and trust that develops as two women – one black and one white – take a trip of a lifetime – one into her future and one into her past. I highly ...   Read More

Louise J

Calling Me Home
I really enjoyed the way this story was told in alternating voices between Dorrie and Isabelle. Isabelle’s chapters are told in the first person with memories of her childhood whereas Dorrie’s chapters deal with present day occurrences. Calling...   Read More

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Sundown Towns

Don't let the sun set on YOU.

	Jim NeubeckerThis is typical wording on a sign at the edge of what was called a "sundown town", which gained its name because these towns required people of color to leave their perimeters – not surprisingly – by sundown. These towns, found throughout the USA not just in the South, were explicitly all-white towns. Sometimes the segregation was created by actual town policy, sometimes through restrictive covenants created and maintained by real estate brokers, and sometimes by sheer intimidation from local town employees like police officers and even regular citizens. It is not clear how many of these towns existed but an estimate cites that at one point there were several thousand across the United States, and ...

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