Author : Diane Chamberlain
Title : The Last House on the Street
Pages : 350
Publisher : Headline
Publication date : January 11, 2022
| ABOUT THE BOOK |
2010. A recently widowed architect moves into the home she and her late husband designed, heartbroken that he will never cross the threshold. But when disturbing things begin to happen, it’s clear that someone is sending her a warning. Who is trying to frighten her away, and why? It is only when she meets an elderly neighbour that she learns the street has a shocking and tragic past. A past that some will go to any lengths to keep hidden.
1965. A young white female student becomes involved in the fight for civil rights in North Carolina, falling in love with one of her fellow activists, in a time and place where an interracial relationship must be hidden from family, friends and especially the reemerging Ku Klux Klan. As tensions rise in the town, she realises not everyone is who they appear to be.
Decades later, past and present are set to collide in the last house on the street…
| MY THOUGHTS |
I have yet to read a Diane Chamberlain novel that I didn’t enjoy. There’s something so incredibly absorbing about the way she writes. That said though, as often happens with dual timeline stories, I must admit I enjoyed the past storyline more than the present one.
Let’s start with the latter. In present day North Carolina, recently widowed Kayla is reluctantly getting ready to move into the house of her dreams. This is the house she and her husband designed together, but also the house where her husband died before it was even finished. As if things aren’t bad enough for Kayla, someone seems set on scaring her away from her property. But why?
I felt that Kayla’s part in this story was very much just tying the two timelines together but part of me thinks that maybe the entire novel would have worked just as well, or maybe even better, without her. As it is, she seemed to spent most of her time complaining about her big windows and the trees on her plot of land, making me wonder why she went along with her husband to build their house there in the first place.
The good stuff is in the past storyline, in 1965, where the reader meets Ellie. Ellie is a young, white, female student who becomes involved in the fight for civil rights. She signs up for an initiative that sends young people into the black neighbourhoods to persuade them to register to vote once the president signs the Voter’s Act. In doing so, she is faced with violence, poverty and the re-emerging Ku Klux Klan.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness only light can do that.Martin Luther King
Hate cannot drive out hate only love can do that.
These two threads will collide at some point, obviously. One piece of the puzzle is solved rather quickly, if you pay attention. Everything else is slowly revealed throughout the story, all the while leading to a most devastating and heartbreaking conclusion that absolutely left me reeling. Not the “what”, but the “who”. Part of me felt like I should have seen that coming but mostly I’m glad I didn’t because one particular moment was so shocking, let’s just say it’s not something I’ll forget in a hurry.
Such an ugly piece of history that unfortunately still lingers today. Just look at how hard a country like America makes things for their African-American population to be able to vote. Ellie may be fictional but we know that people like her truly existed, who realised that colour doesn’t matter, who were out there risking their lives to make the world a better place, who are still out there today fighting for equality.
Diane Chamberlain’s writing, as always, completely drew me in. I adored Ellie and her determination to carve out a life so very different from the one her parents and society had in mind for her, I loved the North Carolina setting and seeing the world through Ellie’s eyes. The 1965 storyline had me hooked. I didn’t have that same feeling about the present storyline, seeing it more like an interruption that was keeping me from the story I really wanted to read.
The Last House on the Street is an intriguing family drama with a mystery element to it that is at times moving, harrowing and engrossing. It’s definitely clear that the author has once again done a ton of research and I couldn’t wait to jump on the internet and learn more about the SCOPE project and the civil right’s movement. That said, I don’t think this is Chamberlain’s best novel nor is it my favourite. But if you enjoy her books, then I’m sure you’ll enjoy this one as well. As I did.
The Last House on the Street was published in January.
With thanks to Headline for the review copy, which I received via Netgalley. All opinions are my own.