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Monday, January 24, 2022

Chamberlain's Newest Heavy-Hitter An Engrossing, Moving Read

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Round Hill, North Carolina

2010—Both architects, Kayla Carter and her husband designed their dream house together, excitedly anticipating the day they and their young daughter could move in. After a freak accident during the building, Jackson is dead. Now a grieving widow, Kayla can hardly face the idea of living in the home, beautiful as it is. All of her misgivings come to the fore when a strange woman visits her at work, warning her away from the property. It doesn't help when Kayla's new home is vandalized and her own father fills her head with stories about the haunted woods in her backyard. Although she's completely unnerved, Kayla decides no one is going to scare her off her own property. It's time to face her future head on by making the house she and her husband built together into a place of refuge and healing for herself and their beloved daughter. 

1965—Raised in a proper Southern household, 20-year-old Ellie Hockley's future has already been written. She'll marry her banker boyfriend, raise a passel of children, and grow old hosting meaningless tea parties and society galas. Longing to do something significant, Ellie decides to join a campaign to help Black people register to vote. Her family and friends react with disbelief, shock, and anger. Defying them all, Ellie goes to work, where she experiences—for the first time—harsh realities like poverty, racism, hate, and violence. As they work together, she finds herself falling for a fellow campaigner, a young Black man named Winston. The forbidden romance will lead to consequences far beyond anything either one of them could imagine... 

When Kayla meets Ellie, who has moved in next door temporarily to take care of her elderly mother and terminally ill brother, she learns the real story about what happened during the fateful summer of 1965. Devastating secrets, kept for decades by her father and others, will finally come to light, revealing shocking truths about Round Hill and its residents.

I've enjoyed all of the hard-hitting past/present novels I've read by Diane Chamberlain. Her newest, The Last House on the Street, is no exception. While it's not my favorite of the author's books, it's still a compelling, well-written story that is thought-provoking, moving, and engrossing. The plot is engaging, even if it doesn't contain any real surprises. Kayla, Ellie, and Win are all sympathetic characters, who are easy to root for. None of them is really unique or memorable, but they're all warm, compassionate story people. Although the novel ends on a hopeful note, overall it's pretty sad and depressing. This surprised me as I wanted happier endings for this cast. On the whole, then, I didn't absolutely love this book. I liked it and I will always read more by Diane Chamberlain. The Last House on the Street just isn't my favorite of hers.

(Readalikes: Reminds me of other books by Diane Chamberlain as well as those by Susan Meissner)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (one F-bomb, plus milder expletives), violence, mild sexual content, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love: I received an e-ARC of The Last House on the Street from the generous folks at St. Martin's Press via those at NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!

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