The Last House on the Street: A Novel
by Diane Chamberlain
Paperback- $17.99

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 ...

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  "Great reading for historical fiction fans" by Silversolara (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 getting folks registered to vote through this program.

Ellie’s family is not happy she will be doing this, and her boyfriend Reed Miller is definitely not happy, but he lets her go.

2010: We meet Kayla who along with her husband designed and built a huge house in a new development but whose husband fell to his death while the house was under construction.

A few days before Kayla is to move into her home, even though she doesn’t want to move in now that her husband is dead, a woman comes to her office and tells her to not move into that house and says she feels like killing someone.

Kayla does move into the house, though, with her father’s encouragement even though she finds out from a letter in her husband’s things that her father suggested they not build there.

An unknown surprise also awaits Kayla a few houses down from her new home. She meets Ellie who has no reaction when Kayla tells her that Reed Miller is her father.

What a connection after all these years between Reed and Ellie.

And wonder what happened on this street that has people saying the woods are haunted?

When threats start happening, Kayla wonders why she moved here.

Maybe she shouldn’t have built a house here. Maybe the woods are haunted.

Back to 1965:

We follow Ellie as she does the canvassing with the group and as she tries to keep out of any trouble.

I never knew of this organization or the danger the members were in.

Ahead to 2010:

We see Kayla and Ellie interact and feel the tension when Kayla’s father’s name is mentioned again. She has to find out what it means.

When Kayla meets Brenda, her warning about not living in her new house is chilling but she defends her choice to move in.

THE LAST HOUSE ON THE STREET is an emotional, heartbreaking, well-researched, educational read.

Another book historical fiction fans will not want to miss with shocking ending revelations. 5/5

This book was given to me by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

 
  "" by knelson4 (see profile) 02/23/22

 
  "I foundit more effective as a book about civil rights than as a mystery!" by thewanderingjew (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 pitch by the narrator, to present a really authentic picture of the struggle for civil rights and voting rights in the sixties. In a story that almost seems to be masquerading as a romance or a mystery, for me it turned out to be an exposé on those difficult times. Each character feels truly defined by the tone and emphasis of the narrator, which adds honesty and credibility to this novel. Highlighting one particular year in the 1960’s, as the story moves back and forth in time from 1965-2010, Chamberlain shines a light on the lives of two very different women, both deeply affected by the current events of that time in the sixties, that time of landmark changes to the political landscape of freedom and justice.
In 1965, we meet Ellie Hockley, who lives on a street named for her family. It is the only house on Hockley Street. She is a Pharmacology student at the University of North Carolina, in 1965. At the age of 20, very much against her parents’ wishes, she joined an activist group called SCOPE, which stood for the Summer Community Organization and Political Education Project. She participated actively in their very dangerous struggle to prepare people of color to register to vote; this right was coming just as soon as President Lyndon Johnson signed it into law. However, during her month of hard work, in which she was truly devoted to the cause, she also became devoted to Winston Madison, a young, handsome black man with whom she partnered in their work, and they both broke the cardinal rule of not getting involved with someone of a different race. Their love put his life in danger. The very active Ku Klux Klan, would not look favorably upon their relationship, nor would their SCOPE’s pastor leader, Reverend Greg Filburn, or her family.
Ellie had been very much influenced by the thinking of her activist Aunt Carol, who was now deceased. Carol had often been mocked for her belief in freedom and opportunity for all, something Ellie had always taken for granted and was shocked to learn was not really granted to all who might desire it. She was very naïve, but a product of, and very typical of, people who were against the existence of any relationships between the races, personal or public. Some of those kinds of people might still exist today. As a young child, I was not aware of the way “Negroes” were treated in the South and other parts of the country, because in fact, few were part of my world. The book truly presents the attitude of those who didn’t think of themselves as racist, but also never questioned why the only black person ever welcomed into their home was, perhaps, the housekeeper.
In 2010, we meet Kayla Carter, in her late twenties. She now lives in the same town as Ellie, Round Hill, and is moving to a development planned for Hockley Street. She was recently widowed when her husband Jackson, stepped on some screws left on the floor by a construction worker. He fell to his death in the house they had both lovingly designed as up and coming successful architects. The property on which their house stood had secrets that revealed a great deal about the history of relationships and racism in that North Carolina town of Round Hill. The growing-up experiences were quite different for the two women, but both women were haunted by pain. Ellie Hockley was haunted by a childhood tragedy. Kayla Carter was haunted by her husband’s sudden death and a visit from a strange and menacing woman who seemed to know all about her and seemed to be threatening her well-being, and that of her daughter Rainie, if she moved into her new home on Hockley Street. In this town with an active chapter of the KKK, located on the original Hockley property there was a lake with a tragic history and a clearing with an infamous history. There was also a tree house which plays an important part in the novel, and once again, that tree has a racist history.
As secrets are revealed, the activity of the KKK is highlighted and it is hard to read about because of the terrible injustices they inflicted upon innocent people without any remorse whatsoever. The willful naïveté of Ellie and her friend Winston, is hard to swallow, when they had both been trained well to avoid confrontation with white people who resented any interracial activity. Ellie’s family and her best friend Brenda Cleveland, married to Garner Cleveland, beg her to come home and stop hanging around with the Negroes. They tell her that her boyfriend misses her, but she is undeterred. Tragedies abound in the book, as a very vivid picture of clan activity and local racism is revealed.
Ellie had gone to California and had not returned. Forty-five years later she came back to care for her terminally ill brother, Buddy, whom she adored. She even took her mother out of the assisted living facility she had been living in, and brought her home, although that relationship was mutually strained. Kayla and Jackson had been searching for a place to build a home in the same town that her dad, Reed Miller, and then she, had grown up in, and where he still lived. Their home was the first finished and she found moving in without her husband was difficult. Each of the women would be at one end of the street. Kayla’s dad, Reed Miller, and Ellie Hockley were the same age, 65. Were their lives intermingled?
Although both women were raised at a time of great promise, both had very different experiences. One was raised during the time of Martin Luther King and the other during the time of Barack Obama. Both were connected to Round Hill and Hockley Street, but both viewed the world through a different lens. Using the mystery as the vehicle to tell this story, a very real tale of racism is uncovered. I questioned the use of one word in the novel. At the end, when Klan activity is exposed, the author uses the term maggots to describe them. I wondered if it was a conscious choice to draw an inference to the homophone MAGAts, that some people have adopted. I thought it odd, since it was Senator Byrd, definitely not a member of Trump’s MAGA camp, who rode with the barbaric KKK. I thought that even though the plot was obvious, and sometimes felt like a fairy tale, the author rolled the story out very well and the ultimate conclusion was really eye-opening, as it revealed the truth about hidden fury and hate.

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

Interesting, but an old story line.

 
  "" by [email protected] (see profile) 05/02/22

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