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The Last House on the Street: A Novel
by Diane Chamberlain

Published: 2023-01-17T00:0
Paperback : 384 pages
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A community’s past sins rise to the surface in New York Times bestselling author Diane Chamberlain’s The Last House on the Street when two women, a generation apart, find themselves bound by tragedy and an unsolved, decades-old mystery.

1965

Growing up in the well-to-do town of ...

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Introduction

A community’s past sins rise to the surface in New York Times bestselling author Diane Chamberlain’s The Last House on the Street when two women, a generation apart, find themselves bound by tragedy and an unsolved, decades-old mystery.

1965

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.

2010

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.

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Excerpt

1
Kayla
2010
I’m in the middle of a call with a contractor when Natalie, our new administrative assistant, pokes her head into my office. I put the call on hold.
“This woman is in the foyer and she says she has an eleven o’clock appointment with you, but I don’t have her on your calendar.” She looks worried, as though afraid she’s already screwed up. “Ann Smith?” ... view entire excerpt...

Discussion Questions

1) The novel alternates between Ellie’s perspective in 1965 and Kayla’s perspective in
2010. How did the alternating time lines and voices impact your reading experience?
Was there one perspective that you connected with more than the other?

2) In chapter 2, Ellie says “There are moments in life when you suddenly see your future
and it’s not at all what you expected.” That statement resonates with the rest of Ellie’s
life. Can you describe a situation where this statement resonated with you?

3) The Last House on the Street touches upon several national current events in each
time line, for example: LBJ passing the Voting Rights Act in the 1965 time line and
the presidency of Barack Obama in 2010. How did reflecting upon the events in each
time line influence your reading experience?

4) Kayla and Ellie both suffer the loss of the man they love. How does this impact each
of them? How does this influence the relationship they’re able to create?

5) For both characters, their house represents their grief. For Ellie, her house is a
reminder of her tragic loss and familial betrayal. For Kayla, her house is a constant
reminder of the loss of her husband and the life they could have shared there. What is
the significance of what happens to each house at the end of the novel? What does it
mean for the future of both characters?

6) What significance does the Hockley house have in the town of Round Hill? What
does it represent in each time line?

7) What significance does Kayla’s house and all of the Shadow Ridge development
mean to the town of Round Hill?

8) How did you feel after you learned of Brenda and Miss Pat’s involvement in
Winston’s death? How do you imagine Ellie felt?

9) What role does guilt play in the narrative? Who do you believe feels the most guilt?
10) In chapter 21, Kayla finds a letter that her father, Reed, wrote to Jackson, describing
their new house as “haunted.” Discuss what that means in the context of this story.
What is the house haunted by, if not supernatural beings?

11) In what ways does the society that the characters were born into impact who they
become? In what ways does it not impact them? For example, both Brenda and Ellie
were raised in the same society, but had very different values and, consequently, led
very different lives. Why do you think Brenda and Ellie had such different views on
race? What is the importance of society and “fitting in” for the characters in the 1965
time line? How does it influence the plot?

12) What is the impact of Winston and Ellie falling in love despite Winston’s statement
that he never “planned on falling in love with a white girl” in chapter 42? How would
the story be different if they were just friends?

13) Discuss the effect of bias in the SCOPE program. For example, Reverend Filburn and
the Northern students did not initially welcome Ellie because she was from the South,
and the people in Round Hill opposed the SCOPE program because “Yankee”
outsiders were coming in to “tell us how we should be runnin’ things,” as Buddy says
in chapter 6.

14) Ellie frequently leads her fellow SCOPE volunteers and supporters in song during
protests. Winston also sings a few verses from “I’ll Fly Away” to Ellie on the first
night they meet in the tree house on page 277. What is the role of music for the civil
rights activists?

15) At the end, in chapter 52, Ellie admits that she and Reed may have ended up together
in another lifetime. What do you think is the meaning behind this statement? Do you
believe this could have been true? Why or why not?

16) Discuss the definition of “family” in the novel. What are the expectations of family,
and where do the lines blur between blood relatives and people who simply fulfill
familial roles? Which is more important to the Hockley family?

17) “Loneliness felt like a disease with no cure,” Ellie says in chapter 40. Which
characters do you think are most impacted by loneliness? Is Ellie lonely in
California? Is Brenda lonely in Round Hill despite being surrounded by the people
she grew up with? Has this statement ever rung true in your life?

18) How does the idea of marriage play into Ellie’s idea to wait until marriage to “be
intimate” with a man? Were you surprised when she and Winston did so in the tree
house? What is the significance of that decision?

19) With the recent Black Lives Matter protests and other similar movements in the news
in the United States, how does this book contribute to the conversation about racial
injustice?

20) How do the idea and perception of protest differ in 1965 to the present day?

From the author

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Member Reviews

Overall rating:
 
 
by Tami C. (see profile) 05/02/22

 
  "The last house on the street "by renee f. (see profile) 03/24/22

Interesting, but an old story line.

 
  "I foundit more effective as a book about civil rights than as a mystery!"by Gail R. (see profile) 02/26/22

The Last House on the Street, Diane Chamberlain, author; Susan Bennett, narrator.
Diane Chamberlain has merged two disparate threads of a story together, perfectly. It is read with perfect
... (read more)

 
by Kelli N. (see profile) 02/23/22

 
  "Great reading for historical fiction fans"by Elizabeth P. (see profile) 01/11/22

We move back and forth from 1965 to 2010 America.

1965: We learn about the SCOPE (Summer Community Organization and Political Education) program and meet Ellie who leaves to help with g

... (read more)

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