Thursday 30 December 2021

Book ~ "The Last House on the Street" (2022) Diane Chamberlain

From Goodreads ~ When Kayla Carter's husband dies in an accident while building their dream house, she knows she has to stay strong for their four-year-old daughter. But the trophy home in Shadow Ridge Estates, a new development in sleepy Round Hill, North Carolina, will always hold tragic memories. But when she is confronted by an odd, older woman telling her not to move in, she almost agrees. It's clear this woman has some kind of connection to the area ... and a connection to Kayla herself. 

Kayla's elderly new neighbor, Ellie Hockley, is more welcoming but it's clear she too has secrets that stretch back almost fifty years. Is Ellie on a quest to right the wrongs of the past? And does the house at the end of the street hold the key? 

Told in dual time periods, "The Last House on the Street" is a novel of shocking prejudice and violence, forbidden love, the search for justice, and the tangled vines of two families. 

Ellie is a white university student who spends her summers working in her father's pharmacy.  When she hears about The Summer Community Organization and Political Education (SCOPE) Project, whose goal was to recruit white college students to help prepare African Americans for voting and to maintain pressure on Congress to pass what became the Voting Rights Act of 1965, she signs up.  Her family and friends in her small town try to dissuade her but she feels strongly enough to risk losing her family and friends for this cause.  While involved, she experiences violence which only makes her conviction stronger.

Kayla and her husband were building their dream home when he passed away in a freak accident in the house before it was finished so she has a love-hate relationship with house.  Kayla and her young daughter move in and strange and scary things start to happen.  Ellie has moved back home for a while to take care of her ailing mother and brother and she and Kayla become friends.

I've read many books by this author and thought this one was just okay.  In 2010, it is first person perspective in Kayla's voice and in 1965 in Ellie's voice.  It bounces back and forth between the two different time periods and the chapters are marked as to what the time period is and whose voice it is.  I found the writing slow for most of the book ... it's not until towards the end that it picked up.  

When I decided to read this book, I didn't know what it was going to be about.  The focus is less on the mystery of why someone doesn't want Kayla to be in the house (which is what I was expecting) and more on Ellie's 1965 story, which was fine as SCOPE was a worthy and interesting cause (I hadn't heard of it before) but there were a lot of details and information which I found slowed the writing down.

Given all that Kayla was going through, with her husband recently passing away and being terrorized to drive her out of her house, she didn't seem overly stressed.  It seemed like she was more concerned about being loyal to her husband's dream of living in the house than protecting her young daughter, which seemed unrealistic.  I found that Ellie, given her privileged white upbringing was just too gung ho about being involved with SCOPE.  It was quite a switch in her lifestyle (one house she stayed in had an outhouse and no electricity) and her family and friends disowned her yet she still carried on with the cause.

As a head's up, there is swearing and violence.

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