Review copy was received from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
The Last House on the Street by Diane Chamberlain
Narrator: Susan Bennett
Published by MacMillan Audio on January 11, 2022
Genres: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Thriller
Length: 10 hours, 30 minutes
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When Kayla Carter's husband dies in an accident while building their dream house, she knows she has to stay strong for their four-year-old daughter. But the trophy home in Shadow Ridge Estates, a new development in sleepy Round Hill, North Carolina, will always hold tragic memories. But when she is confronted by an odd, older woman telling her not to move in, she almost agrees. It's clear this woman has some kind of connection to the area...and a connection to Kayla herself.
Kayla's elderly new neighbor, Ellie Hockley, is more welcoming, but it's clear she, too, has secrets that stretch back almost fifty years. Is Ellie on a quest to right the wrongs of the past? And does the house at the end of the street hold the key? Told in dual time periods, The Last House on the Street is a novel of shocking prejudice and violence, forbidden love, the search for justice, and the tangled vines of two families.
I tried this author’s work for the North Carolina settings. The books I have read are historical fiction and deal with the aspects of racism and mistreatment of minorities, including women. The characters are well developed whether they are compassionate and caring or angry bigots. I was in suspense as I waited to see what would happen to these people.
The Last House on the Street tells its story of two women. Ellie in 1965, from a well to do family. She is studying pharmacology at UNC Chapel Hill. She’s in a relationship with a bank manager. She gets involved with the civil rights movement, which her family and boyfriend would rather she didn’t. She takes a summer job working with marginalized people to educate them on their rights to vote. She works with a young black man and falls for him. I could see the dangers and how horrible this could be.
Ellie’s story is interspersed with the current story of architect Kayla Carter, who is the daughter of the “bank manager” Reed. Kayla is a widow with a little girl, and her father has recently lost his wife. Kayla is moving into a home on Hockley Street, on the other end from where Ellie grew up. Ellie is back to take care of her ailing brother and mother. Kayla’s home is one she and her husband designed and built together and then he died in a construction accident. There are people who don’t want Kayla to live there.
Ellie and Kayla meet. We learn of Ellie’s past and the history of the woods and lake behind Kayla’s home including a treehouse originally used by Ellie and her brother. It’s a heartbreaking story, for many reasons. I guess one of the villains easily, but there were many prejudiced people in the town. Ellie and Kayla become friends and they find the truth about the past.
This is my first listen to this narrator. I really enjoyed her performance and her appropriate voices for male and female. She added a few regional tones and made the characters distinct. I was able to listen at my usual 1.5xspeed.
Listen to a clip:
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