Book Club: The Last House on the Street

I have been singing the praises of author Diane Chamberlain.  She’s written some awesome books that I’ve been super excited about and have written reviews for here on the blog.   The Last House on the Street is her latest book and it’s our Book Club book for May with discussion to happen today June 1st.

The Last House on the Street is considered historical fiction.  Amazon readers gave it 4.6 stars.

Here is the synopsis from Amazon:
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.

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.”

I’d love you to write in the comments what you thought of the book.  You can also answer some of the following questions.

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

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? 

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

Here is my opinion of the book.  I loved it…but that is so hard to say.  Even though this book is fiction, people actually lived in similar situations.  These types of things really happened and that leaves me conflicted to say that I enjoyed the book.  How can I enjoy someone else’s pain?

I loved Ellie from the very beginning. When I read a book, I like to almost pick a character and pretend it’s me.  In this book, I was Ellie.  I can see myself as a young girl doing just what Ellie did.

I do wonder about Ellie though…for how smart and with it she was on the campaign trail of getting the vote to right out, how was she so ignorant about the views of her family.  How did she not know her parents were so against people of color?

I know several times in the book, I found myself saying “Ellie no.  That’s a bad choice.  Don’t do it.”

I do think in another time Reed and Ellie could have been together.  If they had come of age five years earlier the height of Civil Rights likely wouldn’t have been there.  Girls going to college likely wouldn’t have been as accepted.  I can see them having gotten married.

I did guess early on that Brenda’s husband was likely part of the clan and the “falling down the stairs” was likely not the actual truth.  Did you?

One more comment.  Miss Pat does not deserve the title Miss.  I don’t know if I could have been so kind as to not have her put in prison.  The same for Brenda.

Your turn to share…what did you think of the story??  Please leave a comment.

8 thoughts on “Book Club: The Last House on the Street”

  1. I totally enjoyed this story. It really brought to the surface the question “do we truly know our parents as adults and what they opinions are of others”. I wasn’t surprised by the ultimate villian in this story.
    I think a lot of people don’t realize the absolute depth of environment / upbringing on social attitudes towards other ethnicities .

  2. Barbara Geiger

    Split timelines aren’t my favorite but this one tied together really well in the end.
    I agree with you that Ellie was just a bit too blind to the true nature of her close family and friends both in not suspecting how racist her parents were and in immediately thinking that Reed was guilty of participating in Win’s murder.
    The civil rights movement isn’t something I spend much time thinking about but reading about the way real people suffered reminded me of how privileged I am.
    Overall I enjoyed the book and gave it 4+ stars.

  3. I read this book 4 to 8 weeks ago so here’s my memory of it from then. I agree with Ellie’s political views but I felt like she was very naive and immature in her delivery many times. If she met Winston at a future time they could be together. I was hoping the book would end with Ellie and Winston went to California together but no such luck. I also was surprised that Ellie didn’t know how involved her mom was in the KKK. In the book I thought Miss Pat was portrayed as high society, more concerned with looks and what others thought than someone involved in KKK. I thought Miss Pat and Brenda’s close relationship was odd but it was explained at the end of the book.

  4. I was an Army Brat growing up. We were stationed in the South for alot of those years, so I saw with my own eyes the prejudice that was everywhere. Signs on bathrooms, water fountains, windows, etc. I guess this book wasn’t the most enjoyable one I’ve ever read, but it was handled quite well I felt. I think that Ellie was pretty sheltered & innocent. I am sure that things like this happened on a regular basis. I saw some of the events coming, but not all of them. This was the first Diane Chamberlain book I ever read, but it will not be my last, for sure. Thanks for doing this for us and for the suggestions. I probably might not have picked up either of the Book Club choices on my own. Looking forward to the next selection. Hugs,

  5. I enjoyed the book. Growing up in ND in the 70’s I was not totally aware of how deep the racial feelings ran in the south. I don’t understand the hatred that can turn into murder. Ellie was quite naive. Miss Pat and Brenda illustrate how unresolved issues and secrets causes bitterness and unhappiness throughout life. Thanks for your book recommendations.

  6. I enjoyed the book very much. The split timeline kept things interesting, and though I had a bad feeling of where things were going before I was halfway through the book, I knew I wanted to see how it ended. Grabbing the reader immediately with the creepiness of the red-haired visitor to Kayla’s office was a great way to pull you in within the first few pages. There’s an impending doom throughout (in a good, mystery novel kind of way) but there’s so much heart and true purpose in Ellie’s work with SCOPE. Her sacrifices with her family and community aren’t presented in a “white savior” mentality, which I was a little afraid of when I started into Ellie’s story. Her budding relationship with Win was truly sweet and heartbreaking, and Win’s death, though predictable, was still fresh and horrifying. It helps illustrate not only the sacrifices civil rights workers went through, but the shameful way the black communities and people were oppressed and ruthlessly murdered in the south.

    I do have a few criticisms. The ending left me a little flat. After Win’s remains were found and the big reveal took place, I’d really hoped Kayla would have put in some kind of memorial for Win on her property. The iron benches and landscaping seemed a little cold and undignified seeing the way this innocent boy was brutally murdered and buried in a shallow grave there. Kayla made peace with the house because some woman with a little girl moved into the neighborhood. Meh. Okay. And the “rekindling” of Reed and Ellie’s long ago tepid love story I also felt was a bit beige and unsatisfying.

    But overall, it’s certainly a great read and I recommend it. I’ll be interested to read other books by this author.

  7. I just finished the book and thought it was well written. It is always hard, but important, to read about the horrors of racism. It is difficult to believe that such evil existed and exists…to drag a human being behind your truck…
    But I have one question that wasn’t tied up and I am very much wondering if others wondered this.
    Brenda’s husband dying by falling from ladder (with Ellie’s help) …and Kayla’s husband dying by falling down the stairs…did Brenda have anything to do with it?
    Before the reveal the author said their wasn’t found play…but Brenda did say she dreamt of killing someone for years…and their deaths are so similar, which was mentioned…what do you think?

  8. judith ann rosen

    I haven’t finished the book yet but I wanted to comment on something you said, ” how did Ellie not know her parents racist views”. My mother, born in 1923 Arkansas and father 1913 Pittsburgh, until their passing I never knew their political leanings. They were older parents to us 4 kids and being older I assumed incorrectly they were republicans. Upon going through their papers I found they had always voted true Blue.

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