There are few things more disappointing than a book you had high hopes for letting you down. I really wanted to like this one, but the writing bothered me too much. The story is fine, not great but fine. There were a lot of stereotypical plot contrivances along the way. There were several times I rolled my eyes; popular media needs to stop perpetuating lazy stereotypes.
So, what is the story about? After hearing a story how her grandmother fell in love with a young black man when she was a teenager author Julie Kibler took that inspiration and wrote a book about how that may have played out. We meet Isabelle McAllister as an elderly woman living alone in Texas and as the story unfold, we learn in flashbacks about Isabelle’s teenage years in small-town Kentucky in the 1930s, and the impossible romance that develops between her and Robert Prewitt, the son of her family’s housekeeper. The secondary story is that of Dorrie Curtis, a single mother in her thirties and Isabelle’s present day hair stylist. In much the same way we learn about teenage Isabelle in her POV chapters we also learn some of the details of Dorrie’s life and the relationship between the two women, despite their different ages and races in her POV sections. Together, they are on a cross-country road trip to a funeral where the great reveal of Isabelle’s past will come to light.
Like I said before, the writing itself bothered me. I’m not a first-person lover, but I’ve warmed to it over time, however, deployed in less than spectacular ways it can become clunky and that is exactly what listening to this audiobook felt like. This book used a lot of informal speech instead of actual descriptions, which misses the beauty possible in describing feelings and situations when a story is told well in first person. Structurally the flashback chapters are set up to be Isabelle telling Dorrie about her past in detail, but tonally it didn’t land. I found myself waiting desperately to get back to the Dorrie chapters to recap the Isabelle ones and move the plot forward.
It felt as if the author wanted to cram a ton of issues into one book simply because there were big issues surrounding the meat of her story. Some of the events—the bigotry, threats, and brutality—are familiar and predictable and I can see why that would appeal to most readers. Unfortunately, I am not most readers.
This book was read and reviewed as part of the charitable Cannonball Read where we read what we want, review it how we see fit (within a few guidelines), and raise money for the American Cancer Society.
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