Book Reviews

Call Your Daughter Home by Deb Spera


Wanting to open another book I recently read (to refer to as I wrote its review) I spotted this title.  Knowing both that I’d read it, and that it wasn’t in my review drafts, I checked Goodreads and found it was still listed in my TBR as unread. Mystery solved, I decided to go ahead and knock this review out, lest I forget about it all over again.

Call Your Daughter Home take place in the small rural community of Branchville, South Carolina. The year is 1924, and times are hard for everyone following multiple years of boll weevil infestations that destroyed both the cotton crops and the local economy. The story focuses on three women who take turns narrating the story: Gertrude Pardee (impoverished mother of four, is driven to an act of desperation to get away from her violent husband), Annie Coles (matriarch of a prominent family, she mourns her son and is estranged from her daughters), and Retta Bootles (first-generation freed slave and housekeeper for the Coles family, who still grieves for her long-dead daughter). Despite being vastly different in personality (and their places within the community), a bond is formed between when the unthinkable happens.

If I had to pick a favorite character in this novel, it would definitely be Retta. She is the rock that holds everything together when things go bad. She was a steadying presence throughout, and there were many times that I doubted Gertrude or Annie would make it through a difficult situation, were it not for Retta being there. Not to mention, she was easily the most likable character of the three. That’s not to say the others were distinctly unlikable, just that I liked her the most.

There were times when I caught myself viewing their reactions to problems with a 21st century mindset, feeling incredulous that that was the way they chose to deal with it. I had to remind myself that things were very different for women in 1924, and even wealthy women like Annie were often powerless when it came to certain difficulties in life. (Something I shouldn’t have had to remind myself, considering how much history and historical fiction I read. I’m going to put it down to lack of focus in those moments.)

There was one major event in this story that took center stage. As this event played out, there were moments when I was uncertain of where things were headed. Little did I know it was headed to an explosive resolution that was as shocking as it was heartbreaking—and satisfying.

I enjoyed this novel very much. I only wish I hadn’t waited so long to read it.

I received an advance reading copy of this book courtesy of Park Row via Netgalley.

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Author: Deb Spera
Title: Call Your Daughter Home
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publication Date: June 11, 2019 by Park Row
Rating: 4 stars

About the Book

For readers of Delia Owens’ Where the Crawdads Sing and Sue Monk Kidd’s The Secret Life of Bees, this extraordinary historical debut novel follows three fierce Southern women in an unforgettable story of motherhood and womanhood.

It’s 1924 in Branchville, South Carolina and three women have come to a crossroads. Gertrude, a mother of four, must make an unconscionable decision to save her daughters. Retta, a first-generation freed slave, comes to Gertrude’s aid by watching her children, despite the gossip it causes in her community. Annie, the matriarch of the influential Coles family, offers Gertrude employment at her sewing circle, while facing problems of her own at home.

These three women seemingly have nothing in common, yet as they unite to stand up to injustices that have long plagued the small town, they find strength in the bond that ties women together. Told in the pitch-perfect voices of Gertrude, Retta, and Annie, Call Your Daughter Home is an emotional, timeless story about the power of family, community, and ferocity of motherhood.

About the Author

DEB SPERA was born in Louisville, Kentucky, and lives in Los Angeles. She owns her own television company, One-Two Punch Productions, and has executive produced such shows as Criminal Minds and Army Wives. Her work’s been published in Sixfold, Garden and Gun, and Yoga Journal. CALL YOUR DAUGHTER HOME is her first novel.

3 thoughts on “Call Your Daughter Home by Deb Spera”

    1. Happy New Year to you, as well! I have a ton of long overdue reviews to get through… hopefully it won’t take too long to do it!


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