Book review

Call Your Daughter Home

Deb Spera

In a few words

Call Your Daughter Home takes place in Branchville, South Carolina, in the 1920s and is told from the perspective of three strong women with very different backgrounds: Gertrude Pardee, Annie Coles and Retta Bootle. Times are tough after the cotton crops have been wiped out and we’re there with these remarkable women as they struggle to make a living for their families.

Great for

Those who enjoy gritty, character-driven stories where you come to care for the characters.

Why I love this book

The story is told in the first person and the narrative alternates between Gertrude, Annie and Retta. Gertrude is a battered wife struggling to feed her four daughters while her husband spends his days drinking. Annie Coles is a woman of substance. She independently owns the Sewing Circle and along with her husband, owns just about everything else in Branchville. Retta is the daughter of slaves and has worked for the Coles for as long as she can remember. She is the mainstay of the ‘Shake Rag’ community and has an endearing bond with her husband. Because of race and class divisions, these women live quite separate lives but they become aware they also have much in common and are able to support each other when required.

This beautifully told story packs quite a punch. It has a bit of everything: poverty, racism, grief, a love story, American history, female solidarity, and sexual abuse. It’s a warmly told story that keeps the reader very engaged. Definitely a recommended read, although anyone who has suffered sexual abuse could find it difficult to read.

My one criticism would be

I don’t generally enjoy books written in the first person — this book is. I usually prefer books that focus on a main character — this book has three. What can I say? I’m converted.

There are one or two events that could be a little unlikely, but rather than detract from the story, they’ll be great for groups to discuss.

Barbara Brown


Barbara enjoys character-driven books and the opportunity to learn something; about cultures, countries or history.

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