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Calling Me Home

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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.

325 pages, Hardcover

First published August 20, 2012

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About the author

Julie Kibler

3 books1,108 followers
Julie Kibler is the bestselling author of Home for Erring and Outcast Girls and Calling Me Home, which was an IndieNext List pick, Target Club Pick, and Ladies' Home Journal Book Club Pick, published in fifteen languages. She has a bachelor's degree in English and journalism and a master's degree in library science and lives with her family, including four rescued dogs and cats, in Texas.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 5,735 reviews
Profile Image for Julie Kibler.
Author 3 books1,108 followers
December 18, 2012
I hope you enjoy Calling Me Home! Thank you for reading and spreading the word if you like it!
Profile Image for MarilynW.
1,197 reviews3,034 followers
March 14, 2022
Calling Me Home by Julie Kibler

Eighty-nine-year-old white Isabelle McAllister and mid thirties black Dorrie Curtis have a friendship that has developed over the last ten years. Dorrie does Isabelle's hair and although they had an awkward first meeting when Isabelle was upset that her old hairdresser had moved on and Dorrie thought Isabelle was upset because she was black, their relationship has grown into one of caring and respect for each other. Now they are friends and Dorrie might be Isabelle's only true friend. So when Isabelle asks Dorrie to drive her from their home in Arlington, Texas, to a funeral in Cincinnati, Dorrie drops everything to lend Isabelle her companionship and ear.

As the trip progresses, Dorrie doesn't want to press Isabelle about the details of the trip and allows her to slowly tell her story as she sees fit to tell it. We learn that Isabelle was sixteen years old when she fell in love with the black son of her family's housekeeper. Her little community wouldn't allow blacks to walk the streets at night or even live on the property of the people who employed them. At first, Robert tried to hold Isabelle off because any type of relationship with her could literally get him killed. But the two seemed meant for each other and they wanted to be together, as equals, for the rest of their lives.

Single mom Dorrie supports a teenage son, middle school daughter, and a mom, while earning a living with her one chair salon. Dorrie's son is faltering, his grades are sinking in school, he doesn't always go to class, and he's definitely heading on the wrong track in life. Also, having made many wrong choices when it comes to men, Dorrie is fretting about her latest relationship. The new man seems like a dream but Dorrie is afraid to believe he can be what he appears so she has been holding back, not willing to to make another relationship mistake. As the trip to Cincinnati plays out, problems at home get worse and but Dorrie is not about to abandon Isabelle.

The story deals with with racial discrimination, a dysfunctional family, social pressures of not conforming to strict bigoted rules, depression, and heartbreaking loss. I don't always enjoy stories with two timelines and going back and forth between the two timelines but in this case the dual timelines worked very well to keep me invested in both the present day story and the past story. There is much to learn about Isabelle's life that meshes well with what is going on in Dorrie's life. The two women really do compliment each other and their love for each other, whether spoken out loud or not, makes this heartbreaking story bearable. In the end, the story leaves us with hope for the future, especially if we are willing to learn from mistakes of the past.

Published February 19, 2013 by Blackstone Audio, Inc.
Profile Image for Christy.
3,914 reviews33k followers
April 20, 2015

5+ Stars

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Calling Me Home is an unforgettable book. It’s tragically beautiful, heart wrenching and devastating to read. Forbidden love at it’s finest.

This was a book that completely flew under my radar. I’m so happy a friend recommended it to me and I picked it up. Even though it wasn’t an easy read, it was worth it. I listened to this book on audio and the narrators did a fantastic job. They captured Isabelle and Dorrie perfectly. I listened to the last little bit on my way to work yesterday morning and went in looking like I’d been crying the entire way to work. Because I had. It’s just that type of book. Going into reading this, be prepared to FEEL.

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Calling Me Home is an epic love story. It’s a story of friendship. It’s written in dual pov- the past is from Ms Isabelle’s perspective. It’s written from the past as she’s telling her friend, Dorrie her love story. It starts in the late 30’s. Isabelle is a young white girl living in Kentucky. At that time, not only was it forbidden to be with someone of another race, it was illegal and dangerous for both parties. But that didn’t stop Isa from falling in love with Robert. And it didn’t stop her from fighting to be with him.

In present day, we’ve got Dorrie, a middle aged hairdresser who is driving Isabelle back to her home town for a mysterious funeral. Dorrie has problems of her own, but listening to Ms. Isabelle’s story changes her.

As Isabelle’s story unfolds, you will get swept away in the love of Robert and Isabelle. You will smile, cry, and your heart might shatter. This was one of those books that made me completely break down. I wish I could say I just teared up or just cried- but it was more like a sobbing type of cry. I just loved this story so much. I loved the characters, the writing, and everything about it. It was worth every bit of pain I felt while reading. This is one I will be recommending to everyone. I think no matter what type of books you read, this is one you should pick up.

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Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,010 reviews598 followers
December 23, 2018
Update: A good friend is going to read this ... I'm excited.., 'again'!!!! I cried like a baby!!! If this is not an EMOTIONAL book...then I don't know what is. I wish Julie Kibler would write another book.(waiting Julie!!)
Don't even try to guess the ending .. Of 'who' the ladies are traveling to see and why. You won't figure it out. I promise.

If a reader does not get teary-eye 'at least' one time while reading this GEM of a STORY... THEN their heart is made of stone!


I'm too emotional to write a review (just finished reading) ---

I HIGHLY recommend this book to ALL MY FRIENDS!!!



Profile Image for Michael David (on hiatus).
656 reviews1,610 followers
December 28, 2021
This is a touching, heartbreaking story in which Isabelle, a white woman who is 89 years young, asks a favor of Dorrie, her Black hairdresser and friend who is in her 30s. Isabelle wants Dorrie to drive her all the way from Texas to Cincinnati…and Dorrie is only aware that it’s for a funeral.

Dorrie has her own reasons for stepping away from her life for a few days, and pretty quickly agrees. On their journey, Isabelle tells her of how she fell in love with a Black man named Robert in the 1930s…which was forbidden at the time.

Tragic circumstances occurred, and hearing the story brings Dorrie and Isabelle even closer while they simultaneously get closer to their destination.

This was an intensely powerful read, and I loved Isabelle and Dorrie. I felt anger at the injustices of the days past…and still feel angry and sad that some people still have that 1930s mentality. This is a poignant and thought provoking read, and I appreciate that the author wrote this story based in part on her white grandmother, who fell in love with a Black man in an era when interracial relationships were almost impossible to survive.

Isabelle and Dorrie’s journey is beautiful and tragic, and their friendship is a complex one for many reasons. And yet, it works. I really enjoyed this one even if I needed a box of kleenex by the time I finished it.

Thank you to Regina for bringing this one to my attention just a few days ago. I had never heard of it, but placed a hold at my library as soon as she told me to look it up.
Profile Image for Lady Vigilante (Feifei).
632 reviews2,699 followers
January 9, 2015
5 stars!!!


One of my bookish resolutions for the year was to start reading more books that weren’t just pure romance and seeing a couple of friends who loved this particular book motivated me to finally pick it up. Without a doubt, this is a book that will be on my best books read in 2015 list. The content and sensitive topics explored were extremely thought-provoking, the heartbreaking forbidden romance both shattered my heart and mended it, and the historical backdrop of the book made the story feel so real, like I was transported in the world the author created and was a silent bystander who experienced everything the characters did. This was one of the hardest books for me to read, not because I didn’t enjoy it or wasn’t invested, but because of how powerful the author’s words are. They leaped off the pages and seeped deep into my heart, crippling me with the stark truth behind the ugly reality presented in the story. And even though all of this is fictional, the impression left afterwards is sure to impact minds and hearts alike, invigorating readers to not let the tragedies and ostracism in the story reoccur in reality.

Of course, not every book that tackles interracial romance and segregation will make a profound impact on me. It all depends on the author’s delivery of said premise, and in this case, I couldn’t be more impressed with the way the author presented her story and characters. The tale follows a road trip where an 80 year old Isabelle is heading to a funeral with Dorrie, her 30 something year old hairdresser. Over the years, Dorrie and Isabelle’s relationship has gone from employer/employee to dear friends, yet there’s always this cloak of mystery that surrounds Isabelle that Dorrie can’t figure out.


And even with Dorrie experiencing her own troubles with her boyfriend and children, she still embarks on this road trip with Isabelle, realizing that her old friend will need her for support. Along the way, it warmed my heart to witness the friendship dynamic between the two, from arguing about the pettiest things to confessing hidden secrets, the biggest one being Isabelle’s romance with Robert, the black son of her family’s housekeeper and her one true love, and the consequences that arose because such an interracial relationship was forbidden.

From there, the author alternates between past/present scenes, with Isabelle being the narrator in the past and Dorrie in the present. This way, both women are given an equal voice and keeps the story balanced and me invested. As Isabelle’s tale is unveiled chapter by chapter, I got stomach butterflies while I read about her sweet and tender romance with Robert but also felt the unbearable heartbreak when the inevitable happened. The fact that the story is set during World War II also heightens the pure desperation, the longing and love these two experience.


One word can’t really describe the range of emotions I felt while reading this story. From the beginning and little by little, I could sense my heart splintering in pieces while outwardly maintaining a calm appearance. Gradually, my throat was painfully clogged up, eyes welled with unshed tears, and mouth slightly quivering. It seemed like with each new obstacle uncovered in the story, a heavy weight would be dropped onto my heart until it completely crushed three quarters into the story and I could not stop sobbing after that point. And when I got to the very end, I closed the book feeling three distinct emotions: sadness, contentment, and determination. Immense sadness for all the injustice the characters suffered and their jagged pain. Content because the story came full circle and left me with a teary smile on my face. And determination to not let the mistakes in the story be repeated in the present, at least not by me, and to bring more awareness to the topics explored in the book because sadly, they still permeate society today.

Everyone needs to read this book. Love is love, regardless of race, gender, age, and background.

Calling Me Home is a part women’s fiction, part romance, part historical fiction standalone.

P.S. This is the first 5 star rating I've given in 2 months.
Profile Image for ✦❋Arianna✦❋.
790 reviews2,528 followers
June 20, 2015
5 Stars!!


“Calling me Home” was one of the best books I’ve read this year and definitely one of the best books I’ve ever read. It’s a complex story that will impress you in so many ways. It’s a historical romance and it also is a women’s fiction/civil rights/women’s rights as well. It’s a beautiful, tragic story about love, life, family, loyalty, grief, racial and sexual discrimination, segregation and so much more. It’s also an educational story, a story that will open your eyes and that will make you grateful you live in this era.

This was my first Southern fiction novel and also my first novel with an interracial romance. All I can say is that I found it very captivating. The story is told in dual POV, both in the past and in the present and personally I loved both POVs. Practically there are two storylines, both of them interesting and wonderfully done.

“Calling me Home” tells the story of two women – Isabelle, a 89 years old white woman and Dorrie, a 36 years old Afro American woman. Dorrie is a single mother of two and she’s Isabelle’s hairdresser. Over the years, despite the many differences between them the two women became great friends. While Isabelle knows some things about Dorrie’s life and even her two children, Dorrie doesn't seems to know many things about the other woman’s childhood or other important aspects in her life. She only knows she was married for a long time and her husband and son already died. When Isabelle asks the younger woman to accompany her to a funeral in Cincinnati, Dorrie is ready to help her friend, despite of her own family troubles. She knows Isabelle will need her support, she feels it in her heart and she’s ready to take a break from her two young children, her mother and her boyfriend.

Like I mentioned before the story is told both in the past and present. The past in told from Isabelle’s POV and the present from Dorrie’s. Isabelle’s story tells a story of a very young Isabelle who fall in love for Robert, the black son of her family’s housekeeper. In the ‘30s, an era when interracial romance was forbidden, a young Isabelle wanted more than anything to be with the man she fall for. Both her and Robert knew the consequences, but when the heart wants what it wants, you try to do anything possible to be with the one you believe is your soul mate, your one true love.


“Calling me Home” was such a beautiful, touching story. It evoked so many emotions in me. Needless to say it make me feel. Really feel! And it broke my heart. I was left speechless. I didn’t want to start another book after I finished this novel. I couldn’t. It was that kind of the story for me. At times it moved me to tears and I’m not a crier or the most emotional person.

I loved the dual POV and both story lines. These two women’s voices were different, but so real. The story was balanced and I have to say I liked (even if most of the time it was frustrating as hell) how some chapters from past ended. Most of the time I’m bothered by this, but this time I really understood why the author choose to end some chapters in a certain way. It definitely kept my interest.

Both Isabelle and Dorrie felt real and both were endearing characters. The author did a fantastic job portraying their character, especially Isabelle’s. I loved Isabelle, both in the past and in the present. She’s a flawed character and that’s why she felt so real to me. Young Isabelle was naïve, yes, but she just knew how she felt, that she loves Robert. She also was a little selfish, because let’s face it, she didn’t care too much about the fact that it’s possible Robert to be punished if someone finds out about their romance. But love is love and love is everything, right? So I didn’t care, especially since Robert loved her back. Old Isabelle is likeable, funny, wise, smart and so, so strong. She amazed with her strength. Dorrie was likeable as well. She tries to a good mother, she really does, but sometimes, especially as a single mother, is hard to manage everything. She wants to be her children’s friend, not only their parent and she wants to be a good role model for them, better than her own mother was for her. I really admired her for that. She doesn’t trust herself when it comes to men. Her new man seems too good to be true. She’s doesn’t know what to do, if her new man is trustworthy enough. She doesn’t want to be hurt anymore. I really sympathize with her.

The beautiful friendship between these two women, because it really was beautiful, warmed my heart. It was great to see them interact with each other and trust each other with their secrets. I also enjoyed their bickering. They are different from each other – in age and in race, but they form a bond like no other and they dynamic was simply fantastic.

Young Isabelle’s romance with Robert was beautiful, tender, touching, but unfortunately tragic. I was more than once in tears reading their story. I knew from the beginning that it will be a tragic love story, but it was devastating to read about these characters’ fate. For me their love was unique and so wonderful and I’ll always remember their love story.

In my opinion the ending was perfect for this novel. I was expected it. Mrs. Kibler is a great storyteller and even if her writing is simple, it’s evocative and gripping.

All in all, “Calling me Home” is a wonderful story with fantastic, endearing characters, a great, solid plot and a wonderful love story. I highly recommend this one!

Profile Image for JaHy☝Hold the Fairy Dust.
345 reviews589 followers
October 4, 2015

For anyone who's ever felt protective of a book, wished they could erase a story from their memory and/ or read the same novel numerous time, I'd just like to say, "I'm sorry for ever judging you. I get it now."

I LOVE this book so much, I'm mad at it. Yes, you read that correctly. I'm angry with the author (in the most playful way possible) for turning me into such an annoying,swoony, sappy girlie- girl. I cried so heavily at one point, I started hyperventilating. Then I called Carla babbling about how I couldn't take the heartache anymore. I believe my exact words were " I can't. I can't " (riveting conversation, I know. . . but I kept choking up) My Kleenex tissues just weren't cutting it so I grabbed a beach towel to dry my tears and snot. I ugly cried for hours. See, this story turned me into a PATHETIC Twit!

Calling Me Home was my favorite read of 2014. Now, do I think everyone will love it ? Unfortunately I do not. Do I feel like the whole world should read it ? Yes and No. I adore Isa and Robert, but their story is simply not for everyone. Some readers may find their relationship boring. The story switches between Isa's past and the present , which is not every readers cup of tea. I'm sorry to disappoint you boner chasers but this is not a smutty BDSM type of romance . Insta-love nor angst overload are no where to be found either. Also, the writing IS NOT flowery/poetic ** Thank you God** and most importantly the story may. . . or may not have "and they lived happily ever after" ending which some readers require.For those readers who must know, I will tell you in a spoiler tag.

Now, about the story itself .. . . . Oh screw it! I've rambled long enough. Besides, the synopsis tells you everything you need to know. Please take a peek . . . . . and then go buy it.

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Profile Image for Suz.
1,156 reviews601 followers
November 18, 2021
I had to have a chuckle when I read the subject line of this book, that I only just realised is being made into a movie, on IMDB. 'An elderly lady asks her hairdresser to drive her to a funeral in Texas'. It's so much more than that!

Calling Me Home tells us the heart breaking and wonderful story of Isabelle and Dorrie, and of the tragic forbidden love in the late 1930's. An amazing debut novel by Julie Kibler. It's funny when the book world talks of 'debuts' as so often there is nothing 'debutish' about them, this woman can write! I think this book is amazing. Elderly Isabelle asks youngish Dorrie to take the journey with her to attend a funeral. Whose funeral? The answer to this is told from alternating chapters between these two ladies.

I admit to feeling sluggish at the first 100 pages or so, but this is small change when really the problem is all mine, ie. zero reading time and time constraints - I know I'm not the only reader to suffer from these frustrating curses!

I feel out of my depth with these topics such as what we encounter here and in books like The Secret Life of Bees, not through ingnorance of the subject matter but really, just sheer disbelief and anger of what this stuff was all about, and how characters such as this have to accept it, but gave a damn hard fight to try and stand up for their love and passion. Heartbreaking when young Isabelle has to 'resign' herself to certain facts that just pound on her heart so viciously.

Family dynamics aren't on Isabelle's side either, and we see many times when her only 'ally', her father, is so weak I wanted to strike out myself. "Even if he understood the emotions that tore at me like milkweed against flesh, I couldn't trust that he'd offer any more help than a shoulder to cry on, and I was out of tears".

Dorrie is on a journey to help her best friend, but this is also a journey of her own, a self discovery. This is one I loved - "Anyone who thinks a seventeen-year-old is mature enough to always know the difference between a smart choice and a dumbass decision hasn't been the mother to a seventeen-year-old. The reminder sucked." She was a great character to be going along the ride with, as was Isabelle of course, and she was so deserving to get her success. The ending for both characters made me cry, and I had to re read the last two pages. A total joy and written lyrically and beautifully.

Another gem to come across on Goodreads (was it you, Elyse?!), I would never have known about it otherwise. I learned a lot from this book - which is one of my favourite things to do - suffice to say I wholeheartedly recommend you pick it up and tell me if you loved it too.
Profile Image for Debbie.
454 reviews2,891 followers
February 8, 2016
I wanted a lot of things. I wanted eloquent, sophisticated language. I wanted fleshy characters. I wanted witty or wise dialogue. I wanted cool sentences to highlight. I wanted to be wowed. Lower my expectations, I tell myself.

This is a story about a young black hairdresser, Dorrie, who is driving an old white woman, Isabelle, to a mysterious funeral far away. There’s a chapter for each of them, back and forth. Dorrie talks about what’s happening in her life now; Isabelle tells about her past, about her forbidden love, Robert.

The language is straightforward but flat. If I had to guess the reading level, I’d say middle school at the most. No big words, no complex sentence structure. And it has what I call a precious southern feel to it. I can just hear the people talking painfully slow, and there’s something oh golly oh shucks about the book. And the characters act like they’re saying something profound when really it’s trite.

More “wants”: I wanted Dorrie to be edgy or quirky or more intelligent. I wanted Isabelle to do all the talking. I spent a lot of time wishing Dorrie would shut up so I could get back to Isabelle’s GOOD story. Dorrie was bland city and so stereotyped: Single mom doesn’t realize that her man is good and then, of course, her old buddy teaches her that he is. Single mom’s teenage son gives her grief. Blah blah blah. I couldn’t have cared less about Dorrie’s problems.

When Isabelle finished telling her story, I wanted the book to end. Stop while you’re ahead. Instead, no, Dorrie had to finish her boring story, which ended with Hallmark sap spilling all over the place. And she really drew it out, which was torturous--30 or more pages too many. Every time I finished a chapter, it was always tied up nicely and it felt like the end. So I’d sigh in relief and think, “thank God that’s over,” only to turn the page and find a new chapter. It was so anti-climactic, and it neutralized some of the rawness that Isabelle’s story exposed.

Mostly everyone gave this book a rave review and talked about what a great relationship Isabelle and Dorrie had. As usual, I’m the odd person out. I observed their relationship stoically; their story just didn’t grab me. I kept wincing. The idea of a road trip with two people who are so different sounds good on paper, but their trip is actually boring. I didn’t think the characters interacted with any umph. And there was NO interesting dialogue. Zero. I was underwhelmed.

Another “want”: I wanted Robert to be more developed. I didn’t get a feel for why he was attracted to Isabelle. Just didn’t buy that he suddenly loved her. She gets a crush, he ignores her for a while, and then poof, he loves her. Huh? And he disappears from the story for too long. I craved interaction.

A final “want”: I wanted to hear Robert’s story. I know that structurally—with the author giving alternate chapters to Dorrie and Isabelle—it wasn’t possible to give Robert’s point of view (how could Isabelle, for example, know what Robert was thinking?). So actually, I wanted a different book. I wanted it to be all about Isabelle and Robert--one chapter told from Isabelle��s point of view, one chapter told from Robert’s point of view, and so on. Or, the whole book could have been Isabelle telling her story. Let’s please just ditch Dorrie.

Okay. I’m always so critical, but really, there are things I liked about the book. Isabelle’s love story is heart-wrenching and beautiful, and the author did a great job of conveying how Isabelle felt. I was invested in her; I was rooting for her all the way. The pace was fine, and the language, though simple, was straightforward. The plot moved right along; there weren’t any fillers or annoying asides. Isabelle’s story has several surprises (most of them bad), which made it an intense and suspenseful read at times. The ultimate question: Did I care enough to want to find out what happened to Isabelle? Absolutely. I give this one a solid 3.
January 16, 2015

1/16/15 Kindle Daily deal! I paid $14.00 a week ago...it's now $1.99! http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B008...

4.5 Heart-wrenching, Unfair Stars!

Calling Me Home
was a beautiful, emotionally charged, all-consuming story of love and loss. On my quest for something emotional that would tug at my heart strings (yes, I love a book hangover that leaves a gaping hole in my chest-don't judge), I saw a review from a friend that told me this would deliver in spades. Epically...

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Calling Me Home tells the story, in both past and present tense, of Miss Isabelle McAllister, a 90-year old white widow. Presently, she's asked her hairdresser and friend Dorrie (30's, single, black mother), to drive her to a funeral in Cincinnati. The reader isn't told who passed away, but in flips to the past, we learn of Isabelle's story. The story of forbidden love, her love of Robert, the black son of her family's housekeeper.

Present tense, Dorrie listens to Miss Isabelle while managing this cross-country trip with a feeble yet snappy old woman. She too is struggling with life drama related to her teen son, unease of dating after being hurt by so many deadbeat men, yet she puts it all aside to help her friend get to a funeral that's obviously very important to her.  photo 9CABD14A-1C7C-46BF-B556-17CE5770C3E3_zpst8gbvmkj.jpg The author did a stellar job of putting the reader essentially in the backseat of this old Buick, patiently listening to Isabelle's story of forbidden love. My heart broke a million times over listening to the lengths Isa would go to see her teen love. This is in the 1930s where blacks were segregated from whites, especially after darkness falls. Every stolen opportunity was had for her to sneak away to be with her forbidden love. But all this is fruitless as, if anyone found a black boy with a white girl, his life would be taken, much less any chance of future happiness or marriage. I was simply blown away by the level of bigotry in those times. And I won't even start with my opinion of her mother!

Then we flip back to the road trip, Dorrie's cell phone ringing again with teen drama she's trying to solve via phone. It was all just...normal (having teens at home myself, this was true to life). Even in current day, we are painfully aware of the second glances given to a younger black woman with a frail little white lady...surely they can't be "friends." It's all just a bit..unusual.

Miss Isabelle. Where do I start? Can I have her? I want a Grandma just like she was...frail yet tough, her filters long faded. She had no problem putting grown men in their places and I can't say enough how AWESOME the character development of her was. Both characters, in fact. I felt their connection, two women of different race, driving to a known destination, playing crossword puzzles, reliving a love story painfully gripping. Dorrie just say back and let Miss Isabelle painfully drip feed her life story. Back at age 17 and forward...

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Obviously there's death at the end of the story...the title says as much. I won't say who, but even as the reader thinks he/she knows how it ends, it all seems to creep up on you at once. And, oh jeez, it left me in tears! I thought I knew how it was going to end...had it all pictured in my head, but that wasn't entirely the case.

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The way the story is drip fed to the reader was a bit slow for me in the beginning (thus deduction of .5*) but it's all to invest the reader 100% in their story, both past and present. And in the end, I felt completely drained. empty inside...an emptiness that's caused by loss, loss of chances, loss of love, loss of life.

Regina crying photo tumblr_kzpg2j6ASB1qamyreo1_400.gif

I understand, a book like this is not for everyone but those readers looking for something different, a story to become completely emotionally invested in, a story to soak into your heart, Calling Me Home delivers in spades.

***Thank you, Jahy, for holding my hand each torturous step of the way. And Feifei, for such a beautiful review, drawing me to this beautiful love story. Here's a link to Feifei's review that sold me on this book-

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Profile Image for Karen.
593 reviews1,198 followers
February 14, 2016
Oh... My heart still breaks for Isabel and Robert...
Profile Image for Jeanne .
305 reviews
January 27, 2015
This story is about a hair stylist in her thirties named Dorrie, who is driving her almost ninety year old good friend and client Isabelle to a mystery funeral several states away. While on this long road trip, Isabelle tells Dorrie about her life in 1939, and her forbidden love story with Robert Prewitt, the black son of her family's housekeeper. The story then alternates between Dorrie's present day pov and Isabelle's past pov.

So, I was fully expecting to love this book, everything about it should be right up my alley. I love forbidden relationships, and I'm a huge sucker for emotional chick lit types of books. One of my struggles with this book was the format, and that's just a personal preference type of thing. I found the story from 1939 to be much more compelling than the present day story, so I felt annoyed when I was pulled out of that story every other chapter. I think this kind of prevented me from being as emotionally invested in the story as I wanted to be also. Sadly, I didn't find Dorrie's character to be interesting, and so much of their trip felt forced and the dialogue flat.

Isabelle's story had some beautiful moments that I really did enjoy reading, especially in the beginning. I think the book would have benefited from having Robert's pov though, because I didn't feel the romance the way I needed to. I didn't understand what it was about Isabelle that would make him risk his life and his family for her. I loved some scenes early on,

Also, in the middle of the book, the story line went a little soap opera for me. When I was supposed to be emotional, I was wondering if the author saw that scene on The Young and the Restless. I also thought young Isabelle was unbelievably selfish, and Robert's character was inconsistent at this point in the book.

I don't know, if I've ever had an opinion that will make people want to throw things at me, it's this one. Lol. Sometimes there is really no reason why you don't connect to a story or the characters, it either happens or it doesn't.

I would love recs for books on this subject matter, but a book I loved was In the Fields by Willow Aster.


Thanks to Ami and Share for the buddy read!!!
Profile Image for Candida Pugh.
Author 4 books18 followers
March 30, 2013
The best adjective to describe Kibler's effort is "soapy". One improbable moment follows another in a failed attempt to keep you imagining these cardboard sticks are people. If you imagine that in the late 1930's and early 1940's, a 16 year old white girl living in Kentucky could be oblivious to the peril in which her flirtation with a black man would place him, maybe you can swing with this plot. My own take is that "Miss Isabelle" (if she were a credible character) would be either crazy, incredibly dull-witted, malicious, or so needy she required a man to risk his life for her. But we are to believe instead that an adolescent has been so swept away by "true love," she can't help herself. As for Robert, he's a modern day Uncle Tom straight out of the cabin, flawless--because how could a white girl fall in love with a black man if he were humanly imperfect? no. Robert is gorgeous. Brilliant. Kind. Brave. Did I leave anything out? Only the reader interest that an abandonment of rose-colored glasses, a familiarity with the multitudinous layers of racism, and the creation of multifaceted characters could have brought to the story of a young black boy and a young white girl in the pre-civil rights era South might have brought to this novel. The only good thing I can say is the writing is workmanlike.
Profile Image for Cheri.
1,796 reviews2,389 followers
November 29, 2019
4.5 Stars

”It’s funny how sometimes you find a friend—in the likely places—and almost immediately, you can talk about anything.” - Miss Isabelle, Present Day

”When I met Miss Isabelle, she acted more like Miss Miserabelle, and that’s a fact.” - Dorrie, Present Day

As this story begins, Miss Isabelle, a white woman who is in her 90’s, has been going to Dorrie, a black woman in her 30’s, for at least a decade to have her hair done. Over the years they have bonded, shared some of their personal stories, and a bond, a friendship, has been built. It still surprises Dorrie when Isabelle asks if her could drive her from the eastern side of Texas to a funeral in Cincinnati, Ohio, but ultimately agrees to drive her, despite her concerns about how or if it will affect her own budding relationship with a man she’s recently begun dating.

After stopping for some crossword puzzle books to keep them entertained, isn’t long before Isabelle’s story begins to unfold, a story of a young girl who grew up in a neighborhood in Shalerville, Kentucky, a white, privileged neighborhood. A time and place where blacks were persecuted if they were found outside after the sun went down. Isabelle’s mother, who grew up in poverty, wants to maintain her station in life, and she hovers over Isabelle as she grows, trying to ensure her place in life, and seems intent on steering her toward the “right” boys. Isabelle’s father is a doctor, and believes that with privilege comes the responsibility to enrich the lives of others, and tutors both Isabelle along with the family’s housekeeper’s son, Robert, whose family is African American. Robert hopes to go into medicine, and Isabelle’s father is glad for that. Not many of the local, white, doctors are willing to treat those on that side of town. Over time, after years spent being together, Isabelle and Robert become closer.

Dorrie has a lot of things on her mind, as well. A son whose actions are questionable, and her relationship that she can’t quite bring herself to believe will last.

The story alternates through the voices of Dorrie and Isabelle, and alternates between the then present and the past, which is slowly being unveiled.

A heartbreaking story, with an ending that was both perfect, and unforeseen.
Profile Image for Jessica J..
1,027 reviews2,048 followers
January 16, 2013
What a pleasant surprise this book was. It's the kind of book that makes me miss working in a bookstore because it would be such an easy recommendation to make to customers. It's good, engaging and well-written, and it's got a clear audience who will eat it up.

One part The Help, one part Water for Elephants, this compelling debut novel is the story of two women travelling from Arlington to Cincinnati for a funeral. Isabelle is 89 and unable to make the trip alone so she asks Dorrie, her African American hairdresser, to accompany her. Dorrie's family life is kind of a mess at the time, so she agrees. The narration bounces back and forth between the present and just before the start of World War II, when Isabelle was a teenager with the audacity to fall in love with a black man in rural Kentucky.

The book is structured in such a way that while Dorrie is dealing with the logistics of the road trip and trying to decide what to do about her teenage son and her budding relationship with a new man, Isabelle is relating her own story and explaining why she needs to travel to this funeral. There's a small amount of overlap in the two stories, but not so much that it feels like it's hitting you over the head. Some of the racial themes in the book are well-trod but the love story contained inside was so moving, I just had to know what would happen.

My only complaint is that the book reached its emotional climax and kept going for another 20-30 pages. This was necessary to resolve Dorrie's present-day story, but that resolution probably could have been briefer. I was so emotionally spent by that point that I more or less skimmed the last bit.

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for an advance copy.
Profile Image for Ingie.
1,357 reviews168 followers
October 8, 2016
Written January 27, 2015

5 Stars - An epic heart wrenching beautiful novel. -
A without questions fantastic “I'll never forget it” story.

I need time to put myself together. — That was a week ago and it has been a struggle to go back on the memory-line about this book. I don't think I have become so emotionally moved by a book since I read Jojo Moyes' novel, Me Before You.

All tissues were used and I'm still, a week later, easily moved to tears thinking about this story. This will be quite "short and nice". (Hopefully without story spoilers.)

An Magnificent Unforgettable Love-Story Novel
Calling Me Home is sincerely recommended to all you readers with a big heart who still love a unforgettable epic tale. Maybe not in all ways a ordinary romance book but so very ROMANTIC.

My lovely UK-friend Lisa (5 stars) recommended me sincerely to try this novel. As she says: “It's a lip trembling, gulping for breath, hand to heart read.....but it's so worth it.” — I'm so glad I listened to her and experienced this book. — Thanks, Lisa dear!


Shalerville, Kentucky, 1939 ~ Arlington, Texas, present time

Calling Me Home is a story about the once sixteen-year-old Isabelle McAllister and her crush and first big love for Robert Prewitt, the ambitious black son of her family's housekeeper.
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‘Then I grew more aware of him— his skin, his hands, his bare feet, the downy hair on his lip and jaw. I caught myself holding my breath for too long and released it slowly so it didn’t whoosh out of me like a bellows.
“Do you have a girl, Robert?” I asked, hoping to rid my mind of these thoughts by learning what would render them useless.’

Many years later we also get to know, the by then 89 years old Isabelle and her hairstylist and friend, Dorrie Curtis, a black single mother of two in a small Texas town.

An emotional and physical road journey start and we readers, as well as Dorrie, are told an old heartbreaking beautiful love-story by Isabelle. The book-blurb says:
~ “A stunning, moving tale of forbidden love in segregated 1930s Kentucky..” ~

So very true. I will never forget Isabelle's story.


OMG, these two, or three, or four story-plots really touch my heart

I sometimes wanted to yell att these inexperienced, impulsive, next to silly, but so much in love, youngsters then at the 40s. They did maybe some mistakes, but gee, their love and their strong passion for each other was so beautiful to experience.

I only wish ... well, I wish.
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Check the door-signs from a segregated southern. ~ Still shocking and just unbelievable.

In the last following words writes the author that this novel is inspired and based on a true story. Her grandmother's young love to a black boy. A truth that is partly terrible cruel (reality thronging) but also so wonderful romantic.

I would like to write an angry essay about inequality, racists among ordinary people and the horrible skin-color segregation against a big part of the population in Southern US, but we all know how awful these injustices were, and can only hope for great penance and much improvement today and for the future.


Dorrie's story (present time) was also well told. Not as heartbreaking, but I could identify me with her and her everydays problems in life. A single mother, two teens and maybe a future new man in her life. She had some things to solve and what happened under a week on the road maybe chango her future life as well.

I'm just so glad that Dorrie learned to know Isabella and that these two strong women got this journey together. ~ ..And that we got the chance to hear about it. ~ I liked the way this story was told by two different voices, as well as two narrators.
‘She closed her eyes and settled into the cushioned chair while I worked. She nodded off. I watched in the mirror. Her lids twitched as her eyes moved back and forth beneath them. I only wondered what she was dreaming. It was easy enough now to guess whose faces she’d see.’

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It was with tears on my cheeks, and still some sobbing and heaving, I heard those very last lines. - I was completely charmed, deeply moved and dazed. I just sat there a long time...

It is impossible to describe this book here. I don't want to spoil this in many parts so surprising story, it has to be read to really understand.


I listened to the 13:30 hrs audiobook narrated by Lorna Raver and Bahni Turpin. They both did a great job. Perfect voices for these main characters. - They "turned in" to actually be these main characters in a way I want a good narrator to do.


Higly recommended! - This will be an forever beautiful novel and epic love-story kept deep in my book-heart. I know this one will take a place in many readers hearts. Yours?

I LIKE - ..to read wonderful well written novels, heartbreaking or not

Warning: Should not be read in public places!!
The guests at the local lunch restaurant glared wondering what happened to that poor sobbing woman with earphones...

A BR with two of my GR-besties, Irina and Sofia January 2015. ~ Thanks for joining!
Profile Image for Dem.
1,190 reviews1,131 followers
June 16, 2020
3.5 Stars

Calling Me Home by Julie Kibler is a beautiful debut Novel telling the story of a forbidden love in 1930s Kentucky with a modern-day friendship.

Eighty nine year old Isabelle McAllister has a favour 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 and they must leave the following day. Dorrie is plagued with problems of her own but not wanting to let her friend down she agrees to drive Isabelle to the Funeral.

There is so much to love about this book and to be honest once again I was drawn in by the cover and the blurb of this Novel
This is one of those books that you pick up and you seem to settle into the story within a few chapters. Julie Kibler has painted two wonderful characters that are very well thought out and by the end of the story you feel you know these two women. I especially loved and envied the friendship between Miss Isabelle and Dorrie as easy friendships like these are hard to come by. I loved how these two strong woman came together and gave each other support and without any pressure or any expectations of each other.

Julie Kibler also tackles the difficult issue of racial equality and I believe that this novel was inspired by a relationship her grandmother had.
Calling Me Home is a book that is going to appeal to so many people and this is certainly more than a story about racial equality, it is a story about hope love and friendships that come along once in a lifetime.

This is a well written historical fiction novel and I certainly will be recommending this book to many of my friends as it had wonderful reader appeal.

Definitely worth cosying up on the couch for this one.
283 reviews84 followers
July 21, 2019
Oh boy, where do I begin. I am emotionally drained after finishing this amazing book and would love to add 5 more stars to the rating.

I was drawn in from the first chapter with Miss Isabelle's urgent request to Dorrie, her hairdresser and friend, to take her to a funeral. She doesn't reveal anything else, yet Dorrie knows this is important and she complies. The thousand mile road trip unweaves a secret that Miss Isabelle has not had the courage to share and was too painful to tell. But little by little, she reveals to Dorrie the events that have shaped her to the 89 year old woman she is today. Dorrie is such a thoughtful, wonderful friend who understands the heartache Miss Isabelle endured and sees parallels in her own life.

This story is a reminder that love is love and while the thought was forbidden during the time, the main characters found a way to test that affirmation even for a little while. Be prepared for the many feels and bring lots of tissues.
January 10, 2015
Review posted 5/1/15

....I wanted to climb the highest hill I could find to shout until our world saw it's error....

This story of forbidden love in 1930s Kentucky left me speechless . .....a story that intricately entwines the past with the present.

Heartbreakingly Beautiful, Compelling.....

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.

Even though Ms Isabelle was telling Dottie her story on that journey... I was there too....sitting in the back seat of that Buick taking that journey with them.

Like the bumps in the road....I felt everything, every emotion....I saw everything, in the harsh light of day ...just as if I was there....1930

Faith. Hope. Love.

The story of Robert Prewitt & Isabelle McAllister

Some books are just special , they stay with you. Pull you in, embrace you, not letting go.

That embrace more than a hug, that long lingering hold that warms you, penetrates you.

I don't think I'll ever forget my embrace with Ms Isabelle

August 6, 2013
4.5 but I’m rounding up to 5

Part 'Driving Miss Daisy' and part 'The Help', the story begins when Miss Isabelle, a nearly 90 year old white woman, asks Dorrie, her 30-something black hairdresser, to drive her to a funeral in Cincinnatti. Tomorrow. I listened to this on audio and the narrators brought the book to life. I laughed and I cried as I became totally invested in this story about love, friendship, family, and race relations.

Told in alternating POV, we’re transported back to the early 1930s/early 40s as Miss Isabelle slowly reveals her story of forbidden love when, as a young girl, she falls in love with the black son of her housekeeper. The current day story builds upon the friendship Miss Isabella and Dorrie already enjoy. As a single mom, Dorrie has problems of her own, which she shares with Isabelle.

Their friendship is sweet and funny, and the journey changes both of them. Usually when a book changes POV between past and present I end up preferring one over the other. But with this book, I found both stories gripping and loved both characters. There is a mystery and just when you think you’ve figured it out, you find out you’re wrong. The ending delivers an emotional punch and a week later I find myself still thinking about the book. Highly recommended!
Profile Image for ♡ Kim ♡.
136 reviews263 followers
December 21, 2015
What a beautifully heartbreaking story! I have had this one on my to-read shelf for awhile. I actually started it and gave up, thinking I have a pile of books I'd most likely enjoy much more than this one. Then as I pushed it aside, I received a little nudge from a Goodreads friend to read it now (demanding, I know!). But I have to admit, she was right, and I did, indeed, love it. In fact, I am pleasantly surprised and pleased how much emotion I felt for the characters and their stories. I highly recommend this wonderful book!
Profile Image for Tina.
540 reviews922 followers
January 8, 2016
3.5 Stars

Eighty-nine year old Isabelle McAllister needs a favour from her longtime hairdresser/friend Dorrie. She needs her to drive her to an important funeral from Texas to Cincinnati. Along the drive she retells Dorrie a story of a heart breaking forbidden love affair in the late 1930's. Dorrie herself is facing problems of her own and together the two bond and become closer. A story of love, tragedy, friendship and new beginnings.
Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,781 reviews14.2k followers
March 6, 2013
3.5 This was a heartfelt, poignant story about a love across the color divide in the 1930's, when this was not something that was accepted. Really loved the relationships in this novel, Isie being so much older but a good friend to Dorrie all the same. Together they brought closure and a new way of looking at the problems they needed to solve. These are the two characters with a few more that I will remember from this story. Racial affairs, relationships, and friendship were all explored in this story. This was a wonderful novel to curl up with, watching the snow coming down, creating a beautiful landscape, in which to read a bout a love that was beautiful but could never be. A sentimental story for sure.
Profile Image for Sofia.
1,180 reviews213 followers
September 4, 2017
I never purposely choose books that make be cry. Crying is not a kink of mine. This one snuck up on me with stealth via my friend Ingela. Oh I knew from the blurb that there was a possibility but I decided to join in the read anyway.

Did I cry? – OH YES LOTS. Am I angry? – OH YES at the bigotry, racism dealt with in the story. Angrier, more and more, that we still have to deal with this even in our day and age both within us and in the world we live in. I liked that Kibler did not shy away from exploring a bit the racist that lives within each and every one of us. We have to acknowledge this before starting to move forward. It is a battle I think that each of us has to fight, each in the context of our lives.

While I like both stories Isa’s and Dorrie’s, I think I preferred the first three quarters of the book when the tears were still at bay. After that the emotional tugging went into overdrive and I get the feeling that yes it drained me emotionally but my brain was left dry. I had difficulty yes accepting Isa and Robert’s wide eyed naivety at what they were entering into. Is it realistic, possibly, not all of us view the world pragmatically especially during our teenage, rose coloured years, the time when we think that just by trying we are able to change the world. And like us Isa and Robert paid dearly for that naivety.

Dorrie’s story might not have been as high profile as Isa but I liked her and the story she told, of the doubts that beset us all the time and the decisions we take and how and where we find inspiration.


BR with Ingela and Irina who drag me along where I wouldn't normally go :D
Profile Image for Amber’s reading.
538 reviews100 followers
June 18, 2019
Calling Me Home reads like a movie. I could envision every little detail. Some of it was beautiful and some so deplorable that my heart ached.

The story is told in my absolute favorite way - starting at the end with hints and then going back to the beginning. It’s the story of a middle aged African American mother and hairdresser being asked by her 89-year-old white client to take her on a road trip to attend a funeral.

While on this road trip, the older woman tells her story about how she fell in love with a young black man when she was a teenager, but they were forbidden to be together. She talks about her life, her family, the racism in her small town, and how hatred and fear prevented so many things. But all the while, not telling who’s funeral they are attending.

I loved this book. It was heartbreaking but tender and I wanted so badly for things to turn out differently. The way the story unfolded was very unique and even though I saw certain things coming, the author did have some surprises up her sleeve.

Even though things have changed, we have so much further to go. Love and acceptance conquers all.
Profile Image for Lisa B..
1,296 reviews6 followers
March 2, 2013
My Thoughts

Not many stories make me cry, but the ending of this one sure did. The relationship between Dorrie and Isabelle was special because they simply liked each other for who they were, without concern for skin color or age.. What a bond between these two women!

I loved the way the author unfolded the story of Isabelle’s past in between chapters of Dorrie’s current life challenges. My heart ached for Isabelle’s lost love. I rooted for Dorrie to find peace with her struggles and worries. And the ending - OY!

This is a debut novel for Ms. Kibler. What beautiful, beautiful writing.

I am thrilled to have been given the opportunity to read this in exchange for an unbiased review. Many thanks to St. Martin’s Press and Netgalley.

Publish date: February 12, 2013.
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