Rosepoint Rating: Five Stars
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.
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.
I am still gasping, trying to calm the emotions this novel rammed home. So much going on in my country, still shaking my head at the ignorance, wallowing in our own problems of 1965—the CE trying to graduate prior to being drafted (and sure to be sent to ‘Nam if he was). But my operation took him out of school and changed the trajectory of our lives; our upheaval cocooned in California was far from the events of the south. We only got a small taste of what that meant (and was appalled) when he was sent by the Navy to Pensacola, Florida for training in ’66.
This narrative divides into a dual timeline: 1965 and 2010. In 1965, Ellie, an idealistic, privileged white coed full of righteous indignation defied her family, her boyfriend, and her town by joining a Civil Rights crusade called SCOPE (Summer Community Organization and Political Education Project) volunteering to spend the summer living with Black host families so the members could contact one on one local families to educate them on the importance of registering to vote. Something long awaited, their right to vote, hanging on President Lyndon B Johnson’s signing of the Voting Rights Act.
The mission is dangerous; seriously dangerous.
“I wasn’t just moving from one town to another. I was moving from one world to another…”
In 2010, Kayla has just lost her husband in a house they designed together on an exclusive end lot surrounded by trees. It’s ready for her and her small daughter to move in. She should be excited. The home is gorgeous, the first in newly created Shadow Ridge Estates, Round Hill NC, only a much older home on the same lane the owner having refused to sell to the developer. She views her new home with dread but has no alternative but to occupy.
It’s not long before she is confronted with shocking circumstances, innuendo, gossip regarding the lot, dark history of the area. Then she meets Ellie, now 65 living temporarily in the old home up the street who is caring for a terminally ill brother and elderly mother. She isn’t happy being back after living in San Francisco for decades.
The author alternates between first person accounts of the experiences of Ellie working to gain registered voters and that of the more contemporary Kayla trying to make sense of what is happening with her new home. The accounts as related by Ellie brings to life the circumstances of those she encounters, the friendships, social injustice, racial prejudice, and eventually forbidden love. Unthinkable then, interracial relationship. The reader is fed small impressions and stories regarding Ellie’s motivations.
Prejudices, suspicions, terrorist activities by the KKK spreading hate. The atmosphere is alive with tension, static, dread. A horrible time in our history.
The 1965 accounts are electric, pervasive, and lead the frank, mind-blowing plot. Gradually, the two main characters stories merge, peeling away minute reveals, building tension, heartbreak, fear. The descriptions of the window dominated house clashes wildly with the dark, invasive moss-covered forest surrounding it.
The storytelling is immersive, impactful, tragic. It’s a tough read and one that will play over again in your mind for some time to come. I highly recommend this novel, now on pre-order, and will be looking for other books by this author. I’m hooked.
I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the author and publisher through @NetGalley that in no way influenced this review. These are my honest thoughts.
Genre: Women’s Historical Fiction, Mothers & Children Fiction, Family Life Fiction
Publisher: St Martin’s Press
Print Length: 346 pages
Publication Date: January 11, 2022
Source: Publisher and NetGalley
The Author: Diane Chamberlain is the New York Times, USA Today and (London) Sunday Times best-selling author of 27 novels. The daughter of a school principal who supplied her with a new book almost daily, Diane quickly learned the emotional power of story. Although she wrote many small “books” as a child, she didn’t seriously turn to writing fiction until her early thirties when she was waiting for a delayed doctor’s appointment with nothing more than a pad, a pen, and an idea. She was instantly hooked.
Diane was born and raised in Plainfield, New Jersey and lived for many years in both San Diego and northern Virginia. She received her master’s degree in clinical social work from San Diego State University. Prior to her writing career, she was a hospital social worker in both San Diego and Washington, D.C, and a psychotherapist in private practice in Alexandria, Virginia, working primarily with adolescents.
More than two decades ago, Diane was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, which changed the way she works: She wrote two novels using voice recognition software before new medication allowed her to get back to typing. She feels fortunate that her arthritis is not more severe and that she’s able to enjoy everyday activities as well as keep up with a busy travel schedule.
Diane lives in North Carolina with her significant other, photographer John Pagliuca, and their odd but lovable Shetland Sheepdog, Cole.
Please visit Diane’s website at http://www.dianechamberlain.com for her event schedule and for more information on her newest novel, Big Lies in a Small Town, as well as a complete list of her books.
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