Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Book Review for The Last House on the Street by Diane Chamberlain

 The Last House on the Street by Diane Chamberlain 

Hardcover, 352 pages

Publication: January 11th 2022 by St. Martin's Press

Genre:  Historical Fiction, Mystery Thriller


From Goodreads:  From bestselling author Diane Chamberlain comes an irresistible new novel that perfectly interweaves history, mystery, and social justice.

When Kayla Carter's husband dies in an accident while building their dream house, she knows she has to stay strong for their four-year-old daughter. But the trophy home in Shadow Ridge Estates, a new development in sleepy Round Hill, North Carolina, will always hold tragic memories. But when she is confronted by an odd, older woman telling her not to move in, she almost agrees. It's clear this woman has some kind of connection to the area...and a connection to Kayla herself. Kayla's elderly new neighbor, Ellie Hockley, is more welcoming, but it's clear she, too, has secrets that stretch back almost fifty years. Is Ellie on a quest to right the wrongs of the past? And does the house at the end of the street hold the key? Told in dual time periods, The Last House on the Street is a novel of shocking prejudice and violence, forbidden love, the search for justice, and the tangled vines of two families.

My Thoughts: The book is told in two different eras but two different characters. Kayla is a widow moving into a new house in a new neighborhood and someone does not want her living in that house. Ellie is a twenty-year-old trying to find her way to make a difference in a racially divided south. Ellie is also Kayla’s neighbor at the new house. From the first meeting it is obvious that Ellie has secrets that she is trying to keep in the past while Kayla just wants to be happy with her daughter.

I loved the history in this book. The segregation, the right to vote for blacks, and the fear of integration of white and blacks was so real in the south. The northern students followed the words of Martin Luther King Jr and did what they could to encourage blacks to register to votes but it was not that easy. The fear of a white being seen with a black, the fear of a white being known to support the right to vote could all lead to the killing of anyone involved. Diane Chamberlain did not take the easy way out with her story. She shared the truths of what the world was like during that time and how it was still affecting the world today. The actions of those in 1965 make a difference to the people living in 2010, when the story was being told.

**Thank you NETGALLEY for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.

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Meet Diane Chamberlain: (Taken from her WEBSITE) I was an insatiable reader as a child, and that fact, combined with a vivid imagination, inspired me to write. I penned a few truly terrible “novellas” at age twelve, then put fiction aside for many years as I pursued my education.

I grew up in Plainfield, New Jersey and spent my summers at the Jersey Shore, two settings that have found their way into my novels. In high school, my favorite authors were the unlikely combination of Victoria Holt and Sinclair Lewis. I loved Holt’s flair for gothic suspense and Lewis’s character studies as well as his exploration of social values, and both those authors influenced the writer I am today.

I attended Glassboro State College (now Rowan University) in New Jersey before moving to San Diego, where I received both my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social work from San Diego State University. After graduating, I worked in a couple of youth counseling agencies and then focused on medical social work, which I adored. I worked in hospitals in San Diego and Washington, D.C. before opening a private psychotherapy practice in Alexandria, Virginia, specializing in adolescents. I reluctantly closed my practice when I realized that I could no longer split my time between two careers and be effective at both of them.

It was while I was working in San Diego that I started writing. I’d had a story in my mind since I was a young adolescent about a group of people living together at the Jersey Shore. While waiting for a doctor’s appointment one day, I pulled out a pen and pad and began putting that story on paper. Once I started, I couldn’t stop. I took a class in fiction writing, but for the most part, I “learned by doing.” That story, PRIVATE RELATIONS, took me four years to complete. I sold it in 1986, but it wasn’t published until 1989 (three very long years!), when it earned me the RITA award for Best Single Title Contemporary Romance Novel. Except for a brief stint writing for daytime TV (One Life to Live) and a few miscellaneous articles for newspapers and magazines, I’ve focused my efforts on book-length fiction and have written twenty-eight novels.

My stories are often filled with twists and surprises and–I hope–they also tug at the emotions. They have always been hard to characterize—some are contemporary, some are historical, some are suspenseful, and there’s even a bit of time travel thrown into the mix with The Dream Daughter. What they do have in common is the focus on relationships — between men and women, parents and children, sisters and brothers, friends and enemies. I can’t think of anything more fascinating than the way people struggle with life’s trials and tribulations, both together and alone.

I now live and write in North Carolina, the state which has become my true home and has also spawned many settings for my stories. I live with my significant other, John, a photographer and film maker, and our sweet Shetland Sheepdog, Cole. I have three grown stepdaughters, a couple of sons-in-law and four grandkids.

For me, the real joy of writing is having the opportunity to touch readers with my words. I hope that my stories move you in some way and give you hours of enjoyable reading.



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