by Diane Chamberlain
I have read a number of titles by this author including last year’s Big Lies in a Small Town, a book that I very much enjoyed. (See review on my site). I think that, with The Last House on the Street, Ms. Chamberlain has written her best and bravest novel. I highly recommend it.
As is popular in current fiction, this is a dual time line story. In the 1960s, readers meet Ellie Hockley, a white student at UNC and the daughter of her town’s pharmacist. She seems to have everything with friends, a good college experience and a loving and attentive boyfriend, Reed, who works in the bank. But, Ellie wants more. She has learned about the voter’s rights act that LBJ will be signing into law and, although those around her don’t understand it, she wants to help to register voters. The experiences that she has while doing so will change the course of her life.
Fifty years later, readers meet Kayla and her daughter, Rainie. Kayla, an architect and recent widow, has built a house close to where the Hockley’s home is. Kayla both has her own story and a life that intersects with the Hockleys. No spoilers so readers will need to pick up the book to find out more.
Each of these characters is surrounded by many others. Relationships, beliefs and attitudes of all of these people are well described.
The author writes about a difficult time in U.S. history and does so very well. Along with many other reviewers, I rate this book five stars.
Many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher. All opinions are my own.
FROM PUBLISHERS WEEKLY BUT BE WARNED…LOTS OF SPOILERS SO MAYBE BEST READ AFTER READING THE BOOK:
“Chamberlain (Big Lies in a Small Town) delivers the goods with this affecting and spellbinding account of a community’s buried secrets. In 2010, North Carolina architect Kayla Carter reluctantly prepares to move into her dream home with her three-year-old daughter, Rainie, after her husband, Jackson, died in a freak accident while building the house. Kayla is approached at her office by a woman named Ann Smith, who claims to be a potential client but unnerves Kayla by talking about Jackson’s death, and by telling her she is thinking about killing someone. After moving into the new house, Kayla and Rainie meet neighbor Ellie Hockley, who recently returned to the area to care for her aging mother and ill brother. In a parallel narrative set in 1965, Ellie joins a student group to help register Black voters. She faces danger from the KKK while working alongside other students from Northern colleges and the members of her local Black community in N.C., all of which is exacerbated by her attraction to a Black civil rights activist. As Kayla learns Ellie was once in a romantic relationship with Kayla’s father, she uncovers a series of terrible events that occurred in the woods surrounding Kayla’s property. Chamberlain ratchets up the tension with the everpresent mystery of what Ann might be up to, and the dual narratives merge beautifully before an explosive conclusion. This will keep readers enthralled.” –Publisher’s Weekly (Starred Review)