Friday, July 26, 2019

Sophomore Novel Not As Dynamic or Engaging As Debut

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

There's not a lot of hope on the grim streets of Arlington, Texas, for the women society has cast away.  Addicts, prostitutes, unwed mothers, and others of their ilk have nowhere to go for protection or to get a hand up—at least not without selling their bodies and souls in exchange.  

When Mattie B. Corder, a penniless single mom with a sick toddler, hears about the Berachah Industrial Home for the Redemption of Erring Girls, it seems like a trick.  Could there really be a refuge for women like her, a cost-free place that would shelter her and help her learn a trade, all while allowing her to keep her child?  When Mattie makes her way there, she's shocked to discover the home is exactly what it says it is.  Which isn't to say it's paradise.  Still, there she finds friendship, a purpose, and hope for her future.  As she gets to know Lizzie Bates, a former heroin addict and prostitute, the two women form an unbreakable bond that will see them through the tough times ahead.

Over 100 years later, librarian Cate Sutton stumbles across a mysterious cemetery.  When she learns that the graveyard contains the bones of former residents of a home for troubled women, her curiosity is piqued.  Inexplicably drawn to the place and its fascinating history, Cate becomes obsessed with finding out more.  Doing so may just help her come to terms with her own rocky past and find redemption, just like the Berachah women of so long ago.

Since Julie Kibler's debut novel, Calling Me Home, was one of my favorite reads of 2013, I jumped for joy when I heard the author would finally be publishing a second book.  The premise behind Home for Erring and Outcast Girls (available July 30, 2019) sounded appealing, so I eagerly downloaded an ARC from NetGalley.  Unfortunately, Kibler's sophomore attempt didn't enthrall me quite like her first book did.  While I appreciated the new novel's themes of kindness, compassion, second chances, and sisterhood, the story dragged for me.  It's lengthy, meandering, and peppered with prose that just isn't very dynamic.  The characters are sympathetic, but not fleshed out well enough to feel real.  In the end, then, I had a hard time getting through Home for Erring and Outcast Girls.  I wanted to love it, especially since I adored Kibler's debut so much; overall, though, this was just an okay read for me.  Bummer.

(Readalikes:  Hm, I can't think of anything.  Can you?)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for language (no F-bombs), violence, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  I received an e-ARC of Home for Erring and Outcast Girls from the generous folks at Crown (a division of Penguin Random House) via those at NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you!

4 comments:

  1. Too bad this was disappointing. The premise is a good one and seems like it had lots of possibility.

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  2. That is too bad. This one sounded like it could have been so good.

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  3. Ha! In sports, they call this the "sophomore jinx" because it happens so often.

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  4. I hate when a fantastic premise just isn't executed as well as it could have been. I love the sound of it and the kindness but the meandering would get annoying. I am going to look up her first book though.

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