What a lovely fall morning for a book club meeting!!
Celeste's beautifully manicured lawn welcomed U.S. G.I.R.L.S. to her home to discuss Julie Kibler's debut novel, Calling Me Home.
As we entered Celeste's home, we immediately noticed the fall themed table setting in her dining room adorned with delectable appetizers, fruits, vegetables, and croissants. There were also key lime and dreamsickle gourmet cupcakes, designed by Kathryn Russell of Kat Cakes (shameless plug for our cousin) - The cupcakes were topped with mini edible replicas of the novel and were cleverly placed in cute parfait stems. It was a gorgeous setting with great attention to detail.
Once U.S. G.I.R.L.S. and guests arrived, and the drink service was completed, Celeste asked her daughter, Celestial to offer up a blessing.
Celeste introduced her two guests, Sharron who lives nearby and Marsia who traveled all the way from Georgia. JayBee reintroduced her friend, Sharon who is attending her 3rd meeting with U.S. G.I.R.L.S.
Celeste began the meeting by passing out some literature about Sundown Towns in Florida which evoked conversation about nearby towns and areas of Jacksonville that did not necessary have signs but were notorious for not welcoming African Americans during segregation and well into integration. Names like, Sherriff Youngblood of Nassau County, FL and areas such as old Oceanway were discussed.
All of the questions discussed had depth and were discussed in great detail.
While we could all understand Isabelle's attraction towards Robert, we were slightly perplexed with Robert's attraction to Isabelle. Could it have been their mutual infatuation with the written word, or possibly the challenge of the chase, or maybe teenage rebellion? As Roz put it... Was it simply "jungle fever?!" Maybe, it was a combination of all of the above.
When Celeste asked the question about lessons learned by Dorrie via Isabelle, everyone agreed that Dorrie had several take aways - mainly about love and recognizing a good man when you have one. Do not let a good man slip through your fingers. Roz also brought up the fact that Isabelle was fortunate to have had the unconditionally love of TWO men during her lifetime. How rare is that?
The dual narratives had everyone offering opinions which were very similar to what Celeste (Cee Cee) wrote on her amazon.com critique; we all found ourselves rushing through Dorrie's present day story to get back to Isabelle's past story. We all wanted to know whose funeral they would be attending, but the journey was well worth the wait.
There were so many topics and life lessons discussed during our meeting; family secrets and teen pregnancy were this meetings "Hot Topics." As we discussed methods of checking to discern pregnancy and several examples of family secrets and childhood friends who were raised by non family members we could not resist spontaneously erupting into laughter.
Perfect Timing: When 1:00 Eastern approached we'd just finished our questions and Celestial, Celeste's daughter, Skyped Julie Kibler into the meeting!!
Everyone was anxious to hear Julie Kibler's story of her "penning" Calling Me Home.
After Celeste introduced Julie Kibler by listing her awards and accolades for the book, she thanked her for joining us and opened the meeting up for questions.
JayBee was first to asked a question about her muse for Dorrie. Julie mentioned that she really did not have a character in mind, but after realizing that Isabelle would need a companion on her journey, she said who better than a confidant; and what better confidant than a hair stylist? So, she gathered inspiration from her hair stylist of 12 years who is African American. She also talked about writing the first two chapters of the book and then immediately writing the ending. The middle evolved organically. Now, that is the sign of a natural writer.
Julie Kibler shared several personal stories with us about her family and particularly her grandmother. We discussed the movie rights purchased by Time Warner and the emotional experience she had when a reader approached her about her cameo appearance in the book, which she had not done knowingly...WOW!!
Careful not to reveal too many details, Julie Kibler discussed the book she is currently writing. Julie really shared intimate details about Calling Me Home with U.S. G.I.R.L.S. and guests, and we will be forever grateful. She gave us an hour of her valuable time, and we were not rushed or hurried through the Skype discussion.
Once we were done with the Q&A, Celeste presented us with a game for us to participate in. She strategically pulled quotes from all the books we read during our anniversary year (October to October) and we had to identify the book. JayBee won by identifying 4 of the quotes. The grand prize was a colorful market tote loaded with manuscripting goodies!! JayBee then elected to share her prize with Dee, who was the runner-up with 3 quotes.
Before leaving, Celeste gave everyone a 2014 wall calendar, which she designed (with the help of her daughter) featuring each member in a photo montage on their birth month.. What an awesome and original idea!!
Calling Me Home is about a journey - not just a physical journey, but a journey of love, hatred, family and friendships. Thank you Julie for sharing your literary gift with U.S. G.I.R.L.S., and thank you Celeste for selecting this jewel for our October read!!
Everyone knows I simply love a good analogy, metaphor or symbolic meaning. When I was reading Calling Me Home, a tune kept resonating in my head, and the lyrics have finally come to me. If there is a fictional character heaven, I am almost positive Isabelle and Robert are dancing to LTD/Jeffrey Osborne's 1976 R&B Hit, "Love Ballard' right now:
What a difference A true love made in my life So nice So right Lovin' you gave me something new That I've never felt Never dreamed of Somethings changed Though it's not the Feeling I had before Oh, it's much much more