One of the most satisfying things about reading a book is discovering a new author. One of the most frustrating is reading an excellent book that you’ve shelved for ages, wishing you’d read it sooner. With The Last House On The Street I’m two-for two. But operating on the philosophy that we often read books at the right time in our lives, I’ll be content that I eventually gave it a chance.
There are two timelines, which I understand from fellow readers is consistent with Diane Chamberlain’s books. The first takes place in modern day North Carolina when young widow, Kayla, and her daughter move into a new house in a new development. New except for one older house that has minimal activity except for a light going on here and there. Any sense of security is then shattered when an odd woman shows up at Kayla’s workplace and tells her to move, followed by disturbing notes and events around the house itself.
The second period is in the late Sixties at the height of the Civil Rights movement. Ellie Hockley, the twenty year old daughter of a prominent Southern family, has decided that her life lacks fulfillment. Then she learns about the SCOPE Project–Summer Community Organization and Political Education–designed to help and encourage Black people in poorer neighborhoods to register to vote. Against the wishes of her parents, boyfriend, and best friend, Ellie signs up with the project, convinced that this is the way to make her mark in the world.
The narration switches between Ellie and Kayla, leaving the reader to wonder how their lives will intersect. After all, their experiences are worlds and decades apart, with Ellie canvasing neighborhoods and seeing racism and violence firsthand while Kayla is dealing with her challenges forty years in the future. The dual stories meet in a clever and unique way, keeping me totally engrossed all the way to the end.
Everything about The Last House On The Street is well thought out and interesting. It’s part historical fiction and part suspense. I’ve never read a book quite like it before, but I definitely plan to read more by this author.