Author: Diane Chamberlain
Publication Date: January 11, 2022
Obtained: publisher via NetGalley
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Historical Fiction
Bottom Line: Very different subject matter for the author
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Summary: 1965: 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. 2010: 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. ~amazon.com
Review: I've been a fan of Diane Chamberlain's books since I read my first one a few years ago and while she always deals with serious issues, this one about race, the Klan and the South has to be one of the hardest to read. She really doesn't hold any punches in parts of the book to show how things were back in the 60's (and probably to some extent today). Yes people, the Klan still exists but just not in the same way that it used to.
The Last House on the Street is about moving on, grieving, surviving loss and finding your purpose. It is about how the past always comes back in the present. Kayla is moving into the house that her late husband and her built together and she's already unsure of moving there when she starts getting weird visits and then strange happenings on the property. Meanwhile she befriends her neighbor, Ellie until Ellie figures out who her dad is, her old sweetheart. We get both Ellie's POV from 1965 and Kayla's from 2010 and then they come together.
I loved Ellie's backstory and learning about the SCOPE program in the Southern states to get black people registered to vote back when they were hesitant to do so. She was the rare white Southern female to be part of the program since it was mainly comprised of Northern students. Ellie lived in a bubble so everything she was seeing and learning was opening her eyes. She even gave up her family and friends because she believed in the cause so much. I loved her gumption and that she did want to help no matter what the cost to her personally. It did alter her adult life in a way that she couldn't have possibly known.
Kayla deals with the fallout of Ellie's story in the present because there are secrets that this small, southern town is hiding. All secrets eventually come out and it's about to for the town of Round Hill and it's residents.
I have to stay I was stunned at the ending of the book; I kind of saw it coming but not quite how she wrapped it up. For fans of Ms. Chamberlain's previous books you will want to pick this one up and if you've never read her, The Last House on the Street is a great place to start.