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.
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.
What’s it about (in a nutshell):
The Last House on the Street by Diane Chamberlain is a powerfully haunting story about love, loss, and racial divides told through two timelines and two narrators.
What I Enjoyed:
I loved the mystery storyline that runs throughout the tale and both timelines. The suspense that the mystery created kept the pace fast throughout, and even in the few lulls, the compelling story filled in and kept my attention unwavering.
I also loved how the mysteries and timelines came together and intermingled flawlessly. There is a connection between the timelines from the beginning. As the true nature of the relationship slowly reveals, it truly amazed me how well the integration of the two lines complements each other.
The 60s timeline tells a compelling and profoundly moving story around the efforts to register voters in the black communities in the US south. I felt the dangers of such work were so well told that I found myself worrying for the characters more and more as the story progresses. I’m not sure how well it aligns with facts from that period. Still, it feels authentic, so I was more than happy to suspend any disbelief and let myself be taken back in time so fully and completely, hating the bigotry of large parts of society and championing the people who wanted to make a difference.
The current timeline tells the very emotional story of Kayla, the recent loss of her husband and father to her daughter Rainie. Her emotional journey as she determines whether or not to live in the house she and her husband designed together is touching and heartfelt. It also feels acutely authentic that it is easy to empathize with her and the decisions she must face.
What I Wish:
Before I read a review by a blogger friend, I couldn’t imagine any ways that this story could be improved technically. But Bonnie of Bonnie Reads and Writes made some excellent points in her review that still have me thinking. I invite you to check out it out here.
All of the characters are relatable and deeply sympathetic, and they jump right off of the page and into your heart in the most profound ways.
Ellie, the narrator of the chapters from the past, came into adulthood in the ’60s and has dedicated her life to bridging the gap between the races that make up our country.
The narrator of the more recent story, Kayla, lost her husband and struggled to determine the right path for her and her young daughter, Rainie.
Reminds Me Of:
I know of no other story that has so artfully interwoven different genres and timelines into such an impactful story.
To Read or Not to Read:
If you are looking for a story that will not only keep you on the edge of your seat from beginning to end but will also leave you with the feeling that you have been immersed in something bigger than any one person, The Last House on the Street should be the next stop you make.