Call Your Daughter Home by Deb Spera (Review by Shelley Jomaa)

2 min read

Rating 4.3 Stars

Call Your Daughter Home takes place in South Carolina in the early 1920s. It is a story of family, motherhood, and reconciliation told from the perspective of three strong, brave women: Annie Coles, Gertrude Pardee, and Retta Bootle. On the surface, these women have little in common, yet their stories are perfectly and beautifully intertwined.

Annie Coles is married to the owner of the region’s cotton plantation, a major employer for the region. Mr. Coles is controlling and unkind with his wife and children. Their daughters have moved away and refuse any contact with their parents.

Gertrude Pardee has endured hardship, poverty, and abuse. She escapes her husband, getting herself and her daughters to safety. In attempting to rebuild her life, she accepts a job working for Annie Coles.

Retta Bootle is a first-generation freed slave and has been keeping house for the Coles for decades. She has helped raise Annie’s children from birth and helps protect Gertrude’s children in their time of need.

The Coles’ plantation has suffered severe economic loss due to the boll weevil infestation completely destroying their crops. With resilience and ingenuity, the Coles have learned to harvest tobacco instead of cotton. Just as the community begins to recover, along comes another natural disaster and an outbreak of a deadly illness. These three women join forces through their roles at the plantation as they navigate devastation and come to terms with the ghosts of their past.

I really enjoyed reading this book. Spera’s writing gives a real sense of the struggle to survive the hardship and loss endured in this era. She provides descriptive detail to savour and lots of action to engage you into the story. I appreciated the connection to the supernatural world, and the portrayal of being dependent on the forces of nature for survival. The main characters are well-developed, and their actions will at times shock you. Anyone who enjoys strong female leaders overcoming adversity will love this book.

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