Book Review, Historical

Book Review – Night Bird Calling

Night Bird Calling

by Cathy Gohlke

From award-winning author Cathy Gohlke, whose novels have been called “haunting” (Library Journal on Saving Amelie) and “page-turning” (Francine Rivers on Secrets She Kept), comes a historical fiction story of courage and transformation set in rural Appalachia on the eve of WWII.

When Lilliana Swope’s beloved mother dies, Lilliana gathers her last ounce of courage and flees her abusive husband for the home of her only living relative in the foothills of No Creek, North Carolina. Though Hyacinth Belvidere hasn’t seen Lilliana since she was five, she offers her cherished great-niece a safe harbor. Their joyful reunion inspires plans to revive Aunt Hyacinth’s estate and open a public library where everyone is welcome, no matter the color of their skin.

Slowly Lilliana finds revival and friendship in No Creek―with precocious eleven-year-old Celia Percy, with kindhearted Reverend Jesse Willard, and with Ruby Lynne Wishon, a young woman whose secrets could destroy both them and the town. When the plans for the library also incite the wrath of the Klan, the dangers of Lilliana’s past and present threaten to topple her before she’s learned to stand.

With war brewing for the nation and for her newfound community, Lilliana must overcome a hard truth voiced by her young friend Celia: Wishing comes easy. Change don’t.

My Thoughts

This is a story that is both a really good read and one that is hard to read.

Good because it is so very well written. I couldn’t help but be spellbound right from the beginning. My heart just went out to Liliana. Such a sweet, sweet girl, but one who’s had such a hard time of it.

And it is hard to read because Cathy Gohlke has so skillfully woven in some really hard issues. Things that we need to read about, but don’t much care to. Yet, they are ones that must be addressed.

The story begins with Liliana at her mother’s funeral, when she overhears an awful conversation between her father and her husband, who are both well-respected elders in their church. They leave little doubt in her mind that they anything but her well-being in mind, and so she decides to run away with only the clothes on her back and about $80 in cash. She also has a special, treasured ring. One that her mom gave to her and made her promise to keep it safe, and if possible, return it to Aunt Hyacinth.

Thus begins Liliana’s journey to her aunt’s home in North Carolina, the one place where she thinks she might be safe.

I don’t want to give away too much of this story, but it does get rather intense. It not only deals with an abusive marriage, but racial prejudices, hatred, segregation, and even rape. And yes, the KKK was also still very active in this time frame, the years right before WWII.

I couldn’t help but be challenged and blessed by reading this book. One theme I especially liked is expressed well by this short quote “Friends means helping one another.” We would all do well to make a practice of this.

If you are looking for a book that makes you think, stretches your mind, and gives you much to think about, then please do read this one!

I would like to give a word of warning…this is not necessarily the best read for younger readers…just use caution when reading. (Trigger warnings for spousal abuse, racism, etc.)

Disclaimer: I receive complimentary books from various sources, including, publishers, publicists, authors, and/or NetGalley. I am not required to write a positive review, and have not received any compensation. The opinions shared here are my own entirely.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255

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