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Reviews of The Last House on the Street by Diane Chamberlain

The Last House on the Street

A Novel

by Diane Chamberlain

The Last House on the Street by Diane Chamberlain X
The Last House on the Street by Diane Chamberlain
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  • First Published:
    Jan 2022, 352 pages

    Paperback:
    Jan 2023, 368 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Jane McCormack
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About this Book

Book Summary

A community's past sins rise to the surface in New York Times bestselling author Diane Chamberlain's The Last House on the Street when two women, a generation apart, find themselves bound by tragedy and an unsolved, decades-old mystery.

1965

Growing up in the well-to-do town of Round Hill, North Carolina, Ellie Hockley was raised to be a certain type of proper Southern lady. Enrolled in college and all but engaged to a bank manager, Ellie isn't as committed to her expected future as her family believes. She's chosen to spend her summer break as a volunteer helping to register black voters. But as Ellie follows her ideals fighting for the civil rights of the marginalized, her scandalized parents scorn her efforts, and her neighbors reveal their prejudices. And when she loses her heart to a fellow volunteer, Ellie discovers the frightening true nature of the people living in Round Hill.

2010

Architect Kayla Carter and her husband designed a beautiful house for themselves in Round Hill's new development, Shadow Ridge Estates. It was supposed to be a home where they could raise their three-year-old daughter and grow old together. Instead, it's the place where Kayla's husband died in an accident―a fact known to a mysterious woman who warns Kayla against moving in. The woods and lake behind the property are reputed to be haunted, and the new home has been targeted by vandals leaving threatening notes. And Kayla's neighbor Ellie Hockley is harboring long buried secrets about the dark history of the land where her house was built.

Two women. Two stories. Both on a collision course with the truth--no matter what that truth may bring to light--in Diane Chamberlain's riveting, powerful novel about the search for justice.

Chapter 1


KAYLA

2010

I'm in the middle of a call with a contractor when Natalie, our new administrative assistant, pokes her head into my office. I put the call on hold.

"This woman is in the foyer and she says she has an eleven o'clock appointment with you, but I don't have her on your calendar." She looks worried, as though afraid she's already screwed up. "Ann Smith?"

The name is unfamiliar. "I don't have any appointments today," I say, glancing at the time on my phone. Eleven-oh-five. I should see the woman in case the screwup is on my end. I've only been back to work a couple of weeks and don't completely trust myself to think straight yet. "You can send her in."

A woman appears at my open office door as I wrap up my call and get to my feet. She's not at all my usual client—those thirty- or forty-somethings who've amassed enough money to build the home of their dreams. No, Ann Smith looks closer to sixty-five or seventy, though she appears to be fighting her age with vivid red ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide will contain spoilers!
  1. The novel alternates between Ellie's perspective in 1965 and Kayla's perspective in 2010. How did the alternating timelines and voices impact your reading experience? Was there one perspective that you connected with more than the other?
  2. In chapter 2, Ellie says "There are moments in life when you suddenly see your future and it's not at all what you expected." That statement resonates with the rest of Ellie's life. Can you describe a situation where this statement resonated with you?
  3. The Last House on the Street touches upon several national current events in each timeline, for example: LBJ passing the Voting Rights Act in the 1965 timeline and the presidency of Barack Obama in 2010. How did reflecting upon the events in each ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

At times the symbolism feels obvious; we can assume bad things will happen at a place called Shadow Ridge. Additionally, there are more than a few serendipitous coincidences. However, Chamberlain uses the SCOPE program as a lens with which to view the reverberation of racism, which infiltrates the nation and families alike to this day, as well as the importance of advocacy. Ellie Hockley's willingness to put herself on the front line of what her friends and family consider to be not "her fight" serves to remind that America was built on the premise that all Americans possess agency...continued

Full Review (654 words)

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(Reviewed by Jane McCormack).

Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Chamberlain delivers the goods with this affecting and spellbinding account of a community's buried secrets...the dual narratives merge beautifully before an explosive conclusion. This will keep readers enthralled.

Kirkus Reviews
The forbidding, kudzu-choked forest, complete with a treehouse, a murky pond, and an ominous clearing, is ideal for a coverup that compromises even the most irreproachable characters. A mild-mannered mystery with a moral quagmire at its heart.

Author Blurb Cathy Kelly, bestselling author of Other Women
A powerful novel of our time, both a searing indictment of racism and the power of humankind and a page-turning thriller. It is a very powerful book. Strong and fierce.

Author Blurb Chandler Baker, New York Times bestselling author of The Whisper Network
Diane Chamberlain elegantly braids together two stories, set apart by history, to render this taut, edge-of-your-seat tale of two women reckoning with the dark truth of the land they each call home. As compelling as it is important, the novel's focus on the efforts of a group of college students in the South during the Civil Rights movement will no doubt make it a favorite amongst book clubs everywhere.

Author Blurb Sally Hepworth, New York Times bestselling author of The Good Sister
Diane Chamberlain is at her absolute best in this dual timeline about Ellie, a young crusader for civil rights in 1965; Kayla, the woman who moves into the house next door 45 years later, and the woods that connect more than just their properties. Sensitively and unflinchingly told, this novel will make you cry, seethe, swoon and rage. I've loved every book Diane Chamberlain has written, but The Last House on the Street, without doubt, is her masterpiece.

Reader Reviews

Gilmer51

Deception and Truth
A sad and true picture of the South during the Civil Rights Movement in 1965. The story is fictional but the history of the SCOPE project is true. Lives were changed. Families were torn apart, and history was made. A massive amount of research went ...   Read More
Dan Lewis

Perfection
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and recommend it to all readers who enjoy a good mystery, a visit to a time and place in history where civil rights and human rights clashed with regional notions of White privilege and a romantic story honoring ...   Read More
Elizabeth @Silver's Reviews

Elizabeth @Silver's Reviews - Great for Historical Fiction Fans
We move back and forth from 1965 to 2010 America. 1965: We learn about the SCOPE (Summer Community Organization and Political Education) program and meet Ellie who leaves to help with getting folks registered to vote through this program. ...   Read More
Mitzi K.

Historical Suspense Relevant Today
In Diane Chamberlain’s latest novel, The Last House on the Street, she tackles the history of racism in the south through a dual timeline story of a civil rights volunteer in the mid-1960’s and a present day architect facing challenges as she moves ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

The SCOPE Project

Black and white photo of SCOPE participantsDiane Chamberlain's protagonist Ellie Hockley in The Last House on the Street participates in the Summer Community Organization and Political Education (SCOPE) project against the wishes of her family. SCOPE was created in the spring of 1965 under the auspices of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). The SCLC proved to be a powerful force in the civil rights movements as its leader, Martin Luther King Jr., capitalized on the passion and commitment of Black religious leaders and organizations. King appointed Hosea Williams, a fellow civil rights leader and close associate, to lead SCOPE.

The program's goal was to educate Black southerners on how to register to vote, as well as why it was important for them to vote in order ...

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