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Call Your Daughter Home

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A stunning tour de force following three fierce, unforgettable Southern women in the years leading up to the Great Depression

It's 1924 South Carolina and the region is still recovering from the infamous boll weevil infestation that devastated the land and the economy. Gertrude, a mother of four, must make an unconscionable decision to save her daughters from starvation or die at the hands of an abusive husband. Retta is navigating a harsh world as a first-generation freed slave, still employed by the Coles, influential plantation proprietors who once owned her family. Annie is the matriarch of the Coles family and must come to terms with the terrible truth that has ripped her family apart.These three women seemingly have nothing in common, yet as they unite to stand up to the terrible injustices that have long plagued the small town, they find strength in the bond that ties women together. Told in the pitch-perfect voices of Gertrude, Retta and Annie, Call Your Daughter Home is an audacious, timeless story about the power of family, deep-buried secrets and the ferocity of motherhood.

352 pages, Hardcover

First published September 3, 2018

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About the author

Deb Spera

3 books880 followers
Call Your Daughter Home is my first novel. I've also been published in Garden and Gun, L.A. Yoga Journal and Six-Fold. A television producer by trade, I have produced many television shows including Criminal Minds and Army Wives. I was born and raised in Kentucky and currently reside in Los Angeles with a couple of kids, a very cool husband and two rescue mutts.

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 3,731 reviews
Profile Image for Angela M .
1,285 reviews2,205 followers
May 28, 2019
4.5 stars

Once in a while the opening sentence of a story is enough for me to know that I’ll be taken with it. “It’s easier to kill a man than a gator, but it takes the same kind of wait.” What a fantastic line and what an amazing debut novel. I don’t use the word atmospheric very often, but it’s hard to not describe this book in that way. This is rural South Carolina in 1924, devastated by boll weevils, hurricanes, the depressive economic time that the South experienced even before the Great Depression, but there are other struggles.

Spera introduces us to three women, each an unforgettable character in their own way. Three points of view skillfully depicted. Gertrude is a battered wife and mother of four young daughters . With a drunk for a husband, they live in squalor and they are starving. She has to dig deep to do what it takes to feed her daughters, to save them and make a life for them. Annie, a businesswoman in her own right, the wife of a man has committed horrible secret deeds, mother of five children, one dead by suicide, two sons and two estranged daughters has to face the reasons for the estrangement. Retta is the daughter of a slave who works for Annie’s family and has lost a child as well. Rettie fast became one of my favorite literary characters with her strength, her goodness and what she does to help Gertrude and Annie.

I loved reading Spera‘s note at the end. While these three women are fictional characters, they were created with her grandmother and great grandmother in mind as well as her connections to this place in South Carolina. I will definitely be looking to see what she writes next. As always, it was wonderful to read this with my book buddies, Diane and Esil. This was a winner for all of us. Love when that happens.

I received an advanced copy of this book from Park Row/ HARLEQUIN through NetGalley.
June 25, 2019
5 outstanding stars for this brilliant debut novel!

This book has earned top spot on my 2019 Favourites List - I loved every single thing about it!

Gertrude, Retta and Annie are three women from very different backgrounds. Their lives' intertwine and connect throughout this mesmerizing story set on a plantation in South Carolina in 1924. Each woman has a background filled with family tradition, expectations and secrets. Told in alternating perspectives, the novel shifts seamlessly between each character adding layers of detail and intrigue. Racism, poverty, hunger, sexual assault are just a few of the heavy topics covered within this unforgettable tale. It packs a heavy punch and is executed with the force of exceptional, spellbinding writing.

The characters were so well developed and undeniably endearing that I actually miss them now that I have finished the novel. They stole my heart. They were charming, determined, vulnerable, strong and flawed females who each faced their own struggles and challenges. During a time when women were not respected as worthy or independent, these three face their challenges head on.

As I read this story, I continually felt a sense of astonishment that this is a debut novel. The writing is stunning and exquisite. The words flowed off the page effortlessly and landed snuggly inside my heart. The author, Deb Spera, has set the bar high for a spectacular debut novel.

I feel I should give warning that there are some highly disturbing topics covered throughout this book that deal with child abuse. Though these scenes are uncomfortable to read, they are handled in a very mature and respectful manner without getting into extreme detail which I appreciated.

This was a Traveling Sister read with Brenda. We both adored this Southern tale and HIGHLY recommend it.

Thank you to HarperCollins for sending me a physical ARC to read and review!

Call Your Daughter Home is AVAILABLE NOW!
Profile Image for Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader.
2,123 reviews30.2k followers
June 20, 2019
Southern storytelling at its finest. ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

A big thanks to my friend, Chrissie, for first putting this book on my radar when she read it several months ago. I never would want to miss a book like this!

This book! Wow. I recently drove through the Lowcountry of South Carolina, and I am pretty certain I saw tiny Branchville on the way. I am looking forward to my next drive through the area now that I feel a little more connected to that particular place, even if in a different time.

First, I have to mention; the author, Deb Spera, is a writer and producer for shows like Criminal Minds. She has a natural gift for storytelling. I was out-of-this-world impressed with how she told this story. Also of note: her great grandmother and grandmother were from tiny Branchville, South Carolina. Her author’s note at the end left me in tears and feeling even more connected to the story; thinking of my own grandmother and her tiny hometown (in coastal North Carolina). Our grandmothers also shared a distinctive first name.

Everyone knows what the Depression did to our country, but did you know what the boll weevils did to the south starting in 1918, prior to the Depression? Entire cotton crops were decimated for years, and many, many people starved to death. Call Your Daughter Home is set during this time.

Told in three women’s voices: the first, a battered wife and mom to four daughters; the wife of a plantation owner; and the head cook and servant of the plantation. Wow, do these women ever offer differing perspectives on this place and time.

There’s so much goodness here, I don’t even know where to start. There’s also darkness, secrets, and times of trouble. This was not an easy read, though the prose absolutely was. There’s tension and angst, love for family, love for friends who become family, drama, family dynamics; all on a stunning backdrop of this tiny little dot on the map.

I only wish I could write a tribute to my grandmother and her harsh upbringing, the dire times when she didn’t know whether she would eat as the oldest of nine siblings. Just as Deb Spera said about her grandmother, mine was the matriarch of our family. She was a force. A huge thank you to the author, Deb Spera, for writing a beautiful, powerful novel I found an easy connection, which as readers, we all know is the best kind of reading experience.

I received a complimentary copy. All opinions are my own.

My reviews can also be found on my blog: www.jennifertarheelreader.com
Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,734 reviews14.1k followers
May 27, 2019
4.5 A impressive debut novel. Three women, different positions in life, find their Fates entwined with each other. Gertrude, who commits an act out of desperation, must find a way forward for her and her children. Annie, is the Matriarch of the leading family, there are things she needs to know but is unwilling to recognize. This unknowing has caused an estrangement between herself and her daughter, and the life of a son. Retta, has sorrows in her past, but she is the strongest, refuses to give ground when she knows she must put herself forward.

It is the 1930s, the boll wevel s have decimated the cotton crop. South Carolina has been hit hard by the depression and many are desperate. Diptheria rears its ugly head, adding another layer to their worry. These three women must find the strength to bring their families together, and we watch as they struggle and grow. Retta, was my favorite character, a black woman who has seen much, she does her best to bring the darkness into light. She senses things, sees spirits of those who have gone before. At times this borders on the dramatic, and almost too much is happening at the same time. Still, these characters made me care about them, and their stories were immersive. The history, the time period, the struggles personal and financial are all portrayed, drawing the reader into this fast paced story. The ending was beautiful, brought tears to my eyes. Another author to add to my list of favorites.

This was Angela, Esil and my monthly read. As always it is a joy to read with them and I appreciate their insights into the story.

ARC from Netgalley.
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,005 reviews36k followers
October 15, 2020
“It’s not the physical suffering that troubles; it’s the wrestling with what I leave behind and how I’ve left it—that’s the real torture”.

Cotton was the primary crop in the southern region - of South Carolina - before the boll weevil infestation decimated its economy from 1918 until the mid 1920’s.
The suffering, poverty, starvation, and death was rampant.

In “Call Your Daughter Home”, ( historical fiction), we follow the lives of
three women from very different background.
....Gertrude, is married to an abusive drunk-of-a-husband and has four kids she needs to protect. They are dirt poor.
....Retta, a first generation freed slave, works as a housekeeper for Annie.... but she also helps Gertrude with her children.
....Annie - matriarch- is a plantation owner - offers Gertrude a job at her sewing circle. Annie has been estranged from two of her daughters for fourteen years.
Two of her sons live with her.

We meet other supporting characters that round out the storytelling....but the focus are these three women who each experienced devastating, hardships.
As their lives entwine, friendships do too, transcending their differences .

This is an extremely well written book - historically fitting of the times- that explores motherhood, family, poverty, suffering, (inner demons and outer manifested circumstances), hunger, starvation, bigotry, abuse (including sexual child abuse), secrets, death, murder, loss, love, and hope.

It’s emotional, sad, gripping, with memorable textured characters....as excellent as any debut book I’ve read....
At times I loved it ...
I also felt really ‘low’... affected deeply from sadness in a few scenes...
I giggled a couple of times too..
Yet... the pain & oppression, were sooooo sad!!!

It was hard for me to read this right now.
I have my own tears to shed.
It’s not easy for me to read about daughters who are estranged from their mother, right now.
I’m sensitive around this topic.

It’s also crappy to read ‘more’ ugliness about men. God ... I’m tired of it. ( I’m so grateful for the great men I know & married to one of the best).
This ‘crappy-men’ theme isn't the authors fault...there plenty the crappies.... and history keeps repeating itself.

Deb Spera, author, showed great compassion and humanity through her writing.
With quiet strength in each of her female characters...
there was much to admire about Spera’s keen eye, and intelligent stunning prose,
with our own depressing days right now...
even well written descriptions of injustice, loss, death ( of any color)... and universal themes of brutal heartache, and survival....
even ‘with’ great perseverance .... its still unyielding...
it looks like life keeps repeating itself.

As socioeconomic barriers were lifted, and tender hearts were opening, though, I found myself aching for love and unity in our country - in our lives - with our families - friends - and community.

4.5 stars...
I had a few quibbles... but to share them would be spoilers...
It’s still worth 5 stars ( regardless of my own ‘feeling’ challenges).
Profile Image for Jen CAN.
486 reviews1,356 followers
February 28, 2023
It’s 1924, South Carolina, in a small town where the depression has hit first. This is a story of 3 women whose lives intersect in Branchville.

It’s a story of Mothers and Daughters and also of such suffering. Retta, who lost her daughter at the age of 8, a heartache one never recovers from. Gertrude, with 4 daughters under the age of 20, all witnesses to the abuse their mother suffered at the hands of their alcoholic father, barely surviving. And Annie, whose 2 daughters are now married with their own daughters, have been estranged from their mother for several years.
This is a beautiful story of women and how they connect -be it in the form of daughter, mother, sister, friend. The miles they will go to shield those girls. The strength they carry to protect them.

Spera takes us deep into S.C. The heat, the storm, the sickness that plagues the time. The deep dark secrets that rise up threatening these families.

“A bullet for a nickel - that’s a fair exchange”. Wow. This was a powerful read and one that will make you want to embrace your daughter and call her; if not call her home.
An Absolute 5⭐️
Profile Image for Karen.
573 reviews1,115 followers
June 6, 2019
4.5 for this one
A story of three very strong and memorable women in rural 1924 South Carolina. The book is narrated by the three who are a plantation owners wife, a freed slave woman who still works on that plantation, and a poor white woman with four daughters and an abusive husband.
We are told of their pain, despair and struggle to survive, they are mothers and will do what they must to protect their children.
I really enjoyed this book!

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for the ARC
Profile Image for Susanne.
1,159 reviews36.8k followers
August 5, 2019
5 Stars

Beautiful and Emotional!

The year is 1924, the place is South Carolina. Three women’s lives intertwine on a plantation where times are tough and where, relying on each other and connecting, are what will carry them through the most difficult of times.

Gertrude’s life has never been easy. Unfortunately, after what happens, she just made things a whole lot harder on herself and her four kids. Now, she has some decisions to make, decisions that no one but herself can possibly understand.

Annie, is the matriarch of the Cole family. She is a business woman, a wife and a mother, with two estranged daughters and three sons (one deceased), two living, who both take care of different family businesses, thus her interests have always been divided. A single discovery blows her whole world apart and nothing will ever be the same.

Retta is the Cole’s Housekeeper. A freed slave, who has worked for the Cole’s her whole life, Retta is almost like family. She and her husband have experienced loss time and again and yet, Retta picks herself up and keeps going. The epitome of strength, Retta also takes care of everyone else who crosses her path.

“Call Your Daughter Home” is a novel about friendship, family and love. It is a powerhouse of a novel with characters who embedded themselves into my soul. I loved each of them, with Retta being my absolute favorite. I can definitely say that this be on my best of list for 2019. I listened to this novel because several GR friends posted incredible reviews of it and I just knew I had to “read” it. A huge thank you goes out to: Angela M., Lindsay, Cheri, Diane S., and Jennifer.

Thank you to Hoopla for the audiobook! The narration was stellar!

Posted on Goodreads and Twitter on 8.4.19.
Profile Image for Cheri.
1,741 reviews2,267 followers
April 12, 2019
”It’s easier to kill a man than a gator, but it takes the same kind of wait.”

Set in the 1924, in Branchville, South Carolina, the voices of three women share their stories, their struggles, and their pain, while at the same time holding their own secrets close.

”Sometimes the years go by so fast it’s like flipping pages in a book, but a day can take so long a whole life’s gone by before the sun sets down.”

Gertrude Pardee, a young white woman who is escaping her abusive husband, leaving with her four daughters in search of a home away from so many years of pain, hoping to shield her daughters from the same treatment by their father that she endured. Her daughters are Edna, fifteen, Lily, thirteen, Alma and Mary are ten and six.

”Somewhere nearby, a screen door slams and a child laughs. A whistled tune is carried through the air to my ear as clear as a songbird, though I don’t know the melody. I have neighbors near enough for me to hear them and them to hear me. I am all at once reminded of other lives beyond the one I have lived.”

Annie Coles, who comes to employ Gertie, lives on her family plantation, in a house that is ”pure white and grand as the entrance to heaven” along with her husband, and has been estranged from her two adult daughters for some time. Her youngest son died very young, and tragically. She also has two adult sons.

Oretta Bootles - Retta – is Annie Coles black housekeeper, the first generation of free blacks in her family, who frequently thinks of, speaks to, her daughter who died at the age of eight. Retta is married to Odell, whose health is poor following a major work related injury. Their love is sweet and strong. Retta’s chapters are gently infused with a strong spiritual sense, as she shares her feelings with God about Odell, a bargaining for his safe keeping.

”…no matter how much we look at what happened, no matter how many times we think back to what might have been if we could’ve done one thing different, no matter what, we always come up the same. We live over and over in the happening only to be left with what’s already done.”

Set in an era where this area was still recovering from a boll weevil infection that affected the economy, and a few away from the Great Depression which would hit this area harder than most, this history plays out, showing the devastating effect it had on this area, and the people who lived there. At its heart, though, this is a lovely portrait of the friendship of these three women, the desperately hard times they endured, and the strength they gained through their bonds of loyalty and friendship that allowed them to endure.

”’Between us we got all the talent in the world, but we got to use every bit to pull ourselves up. We been down,’ I told them. ‘but we ain’t down no more. We got to look at this chance like we’re being born all over again.’”

Originally titled ”Alligator,” the author, Deb Spera, is also a veteran of television, having been a TV producer for Criminal Minds,Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior, Reaper as well as the Lifetime series Army Wives Close to two years ago, she closed a two-year first-look deal with AMC.

Pub Date: 11 Jun 2019

Many thanks for the ARC provided by Harlequin – Trade Publishing (US & Canada) Park Row
Profile Image for Linda.
1,227 reviews1,276 followers
September 3, 2019
"He was used to my ways by then. We was so happy. I was too young to know there is no such thing as any one thing. Everything, even great happiness, has another side. Turn over a leaf and see how the front and back differ."

Call Your Daughter Home invites us to experience the rugged path that crosses every culture and every community. All women, no matter where their source has birthed them, have ties to the great daughterhood originating since the beginning of time. Tiny threads hold them intact to one another through shared experiences, common fears, shifting relationships, and wordless sorrows.

Deb Spera has created a commaraderie of women caught in the remnants of the boll weevil infestation in South Carolina in 1924. Everything was the land and the land tied all together regardless of class, beliefs, social stature, or fleeting status. If that land did not produce, neither did its people. Dirt rich soon became dirt poor.

We come upon Gertrude and her four daughters held at the mercy of a monster of a husband and father. They all wear deeply embedded scars from devastating abuse at his hands. Any spare coins went for drink and not to feed the family. Alvin stumbled home every night until he stumbled right into the sights of something deadly waiting for him in the swamp.

Retta, my favorite, has the gift of compassion that overflows richly into every situation she comes upon. She and Dell have been married for some time and experienced the loss of their eight year old daughter. Retta works tirelessly for the Coles who own the tobacco plantation nearby. And we'll come to find that Retta stands miles taller than those who foolishly think that they are superior. Fate has a way of evening the playing field.

Annie Cole is the matriarch of the Cole family. Deb Spera sifts slowly through a smoke screen making its way across this Cole family. We are aware that long held secrets are buried deep in the lives of her children. Mr. Cole banished their daughters from the family home and they've not spoken for fifteen years. While Annie tries her hand at a shirt-making business employing local women, she's quite lacking in relation to the very females in her family.

Call Your Daughter Home is written powerfully within striking distance of the very people who've struggled to survive under heavy-duty circumstances. The situations are raw and the language often reflects this. The reveal at the end has a crushing weight. Be aware as you enter. Deb Spera explains her choices in the pursuit of realism in the Author's Notes. It is sincerely hard to believe that this is a debut novel. Spera has the gift of giving true life and being to these characters whose paths will cross again and again. Believe me, you'll remember them for some time to come.
Profile Image for Diane Barnes.
1,255 reviews451 followers
January 12, 2020
Books depicting strong women are always a favorite, and when the first chapter has an abused wife and mother shooting her husband in the head and watching him topple into an alligator pit, well, suffice it to say you have my attention. It only gets better from there, as we watch three strong women do what it takes to survive in 1924 South Carolina. Gertie kills her husband to save her daughters, Annie finds out at the age of 70 that her wealthy planter husband is not what she thought and is the source of much family tragedy, and Retta is forced to keep quiet about things she knows because of her black skin. These three women find a way to protect what they love, and help each other along the way. I loved the ending even though some things got settled a little too patly, but even so, very satisfying.

"Polite make believe is weary business, and there is no one better at this than Southerners".

Amen, sister, Amen.
Profile Image for Dem.
1,186 reviews1,097 followers
May 6, 2020
3.5 Stars

A well written and thought provoking tale of motherhood, womanhood and justice, set in South Caroline and the just before the Great American Depression

I really enjoy southern literature, this is the type of novel where you can smell the heat and feel the dust in your hair as you get drawn in by the family relationships and hardships of the time.

Set in South Carolina around 1924, we come to know three very different women, Gertrude a mother of four, who must make an unconscionable decision to save her daughters. Retta, a first-generation freed slave, comes to Gertrude’s aid despite the gossip it stirs in her con unity and Annie the matriarch of the influential Coles family who offers Gertrude employment at her sewing circle while facing problems of her own at home.

I loved the characterisation in this novel, the three main characters all have their individual strengths and weaknesses and all with their own distinctive voices . An extremely well researched novel and a terrific sense of time and place. This is not an uplifting story and many may actually find it quite depressing. But there is hope and I especially loved the ending which is fitting for the story.

I found the pacing of the novel quite slow toward the middle and this is reflected in my rating. At times a little over descriptive but overall a worthwhile read that I think many will love.

I really enjoyed this debut novel and look forward to more books by this author. I think this would make an interesting bookclub read as lots of discussion here and the book also has a discussion guilds included at the back.
June 26, 2019
I almost missed reading Call Your Daughter Home in my book chaos and if it wasn’t for Lindsay I just might have. Set in 1924 South Carolina after infamous boll weevil infestation that devastated the land and the economy Debra Spera brings us an unforgettable story that is not to missed by historical fiction lover. I sure am glad I didn’t.

Call Your Daughter Home is an impressive, compelling and engaging story that explores the lives of three equally unforgettable, strong southern women who come together through place in desperate times. The story is told through each of their distinctive voices and we see each of their own conflicts surrounding their relationships with their daughters and husbands.

Deb Spera does such an amazing job here creating such well-developed characters that caught my heart and I was immediately drawn into their lives by the emotional depth to each. I was captivated by the sense of place and could feel the danger lurking for each woman like I could feel the danger from the creatures of the swamp. I loved how Deb Spera weaved the lives of these women together and formed a bond between them allowing each woman to become stronger as they faced their own conflicts and in the end came together to stand up for justice. I highly recommend!

I received a complimentary copy from Edelweiss.

Profile Image for Sara.
Author 1 book484 followers
October 10, 2020
As soon as I started living with the expectation of having a friend by my side through old age, I found her dead on the kitchen floor. Now the whole world is upside down in thought and action, and my days are filled with worry about what I can’t see that’s waitin’ around the corner.

It is what is waiting around the corner for three women living in 1924 South Carolina that makes up the bulk of this captivating debut novel by Deb Spera. What a debut it is! Anne is a wealthy woman, mistress of a large house with servants and owner of a local business on the verge of becoming something more. Retta is a black woman, a descendant of the slaves who once served at this house, and herself still a part of the fabric of its existence, but also an independent minded and strong woman, testing the limits of the world she now inhabits. And finally, there is Gertrude, a white woman living in poverty with her shiftless husband and four daughters--a woman given away in marriage to a cruel man, struggling to find a way out and into a life that might offer more than starvation and fear.

It being 1924, and there being a black woman involved, there is a necessary picture of the racial divide. Retta is, without doubt, my favorite character in the story, exhibiting a strength that draws others to her, particularly the white people who need both her physical and spiritual help. The mindset she is battling against is summed up beautifully in the words of her mother:

She’d say, “We all born the same, we all die the same, ain’t no difference in that truth. But when you a Negro, you got to watch your mouth. What’s said can’t be unsaid, what’s done can’t be undone and what white folk do, don’t concern you. We’re put here on this earth to work, that’s all. If your daddy and brothers would have been happy enough with that fact, they’d still be here today.

That Retta chooses to ignore that advice and become involved in the lives of the white people around her is both remarkable and heroic.

This is a story of women, Some are pitted against the men who control their worlds, and one thing clearly seen is that this is a man’s world and even the most powerful women have very little power outside their own selves.

Men can’t bear what women must. They jump to cry insanity as cause for a woman’s unhappiness; the utterance of the unutterable must be dementia. It’s just too much to consider otherwise.

What happens to these women, as they thread through each other’s lives, is pure magic. I learned to respect them all before the end of the book, and root for their determination not to give in to the harshness of the lives they led. There is so much more I want to say, but to do so would give away plot, and that is not my purpose.

Don’t miss this one!
Profile Image for Liz.
2,020 reviews2,525 followers
May 14, 2021
Five stars, one of the best I’ve listened to.
This is an amazing debut novel, the kind of tour de force I’ve been longing for. It’s 1924 in South Carolina. The south is just getting over the boll weevil infestation that ruined the economy. Three women are dealing with their various hardships. Gertrude, the mother of four young daughters, has an alcoholic, abusive husband. Retta, is a first generation freed black woman, working as a maid. Mrs. Cole is Retta’s employer, and has two daughters that no longer speak to her. How these three women come together is at the heart of the story.
Spera has created these amazing characters, along with a strew of secondary characters that are equally fully developed. She also has written a story that had me easily able to see every scene. I just read that Spera writes for tv shows and it shows in her clear, concise descriptions. I was surprised that the book moved at a brisk pace, with plenty of action. The story grabbed me from the beginning and held me in its thrall.
We hear in alternating chapters from each of the women as they face their demons. I loved each of these characters so much, I wanted to see if things would finally work out for them. A major theme of the book is Christian love and forgiveness (including of oneself). But there were two men I could never find it in myself to forgive. It also covers motherhood, prejudice, abuse and poverty. This would make a great book club selection as there’s so much meat to the story.
The write up recommends this for fans of Where the Crawdads Sing and I completely concur with that.
This is a fabulous audiobook. All three narrators did a great job and brought the story totally to life.
September 15, 2020
What an exquisitely written book! Talk about a group of intrepid courageous women who go forth burdened as they were, to become women of courage and strength.

The setting is the South before the Great Depression took hold of our country. The women, Gertrude grasping to save her children from an abusive husband, Retta, a woman whose parents were slaves, and Annie Cole, who comes to terms with a terrible secret that has divided her from her daughters are depicted with determination and fortitude.

These women are all battling demons in a small town of the South, a South that is just digging its way out of the devastation caused by the boll weevil. Times are hard and although each face different struggles, all are united in their desire to overcome what life has dealt them. They are truly remarkable women who beat the devil that seems to be pounding at their door.

Truly a book not to be missed for those who relish wonderful prose, atmospheric relevance, and women who comes to terms with their spirit, tenacity, and prowess.

Profile Image for Zoeytron.
1,036 reviews671 followers
November 10, 2020
Set in the rural region of Branchville, South Carolina, in the year of  1924.  Threats are almost a way of life here, with an infestation of boll weevils, abject poverty, and the highly infectious and deadly diphtheria.  Three women with mettle doing what they must to protect their own.  With age comes perspective.  Pretense is unnecessary.  This story touches the pulse points of life.  Excellent.
Profile Image for Lori Elliott (catching up).
733 reviews1,779 followers
September 1, 2019
What a gem! The Pee Dee of South Carolina is one of those places that hasnt changed much over the past 100 years. It’s a rural area still littered with farms and old tobacco barns. My husbands roots run deep in this area of SC and most were tobacco farmers. I know these roads well so the setting really resonated with me.

The author intergrated her own grand/great-grandmothers personalities into her characters. The dedication to them, at the end of the novel, really makes the story all the more special. The story shows the struggles these women faced, how they dealt with them and how help came to them from the most unexpected places. Giving up was never an option. Thank you Ms. Spera for a truly wonderful novel. A must read for fans of The Invention Of Wings.
Profile Image for Esil.
1,118 reviews1,336 followers
May 26, 2019
A high 4 stars!

Call Your Daughter Home is a fabulously intense novel. Set in North Carolina in the 1920s, the story is told from the point of view of three very different women who’s lives intersect at pretty terrible times in their lives. Gertrude is a very poor white women, caught in a violent marriage, trying to figure out how to protect and feed her four daughters. Annie is part of the local gentry, married to a landowner with four living adult children, her two daughter being estranged. Oretta is an older black woman, who works for Annie, and who lost her only daughter many years earlier. Both Annie and Gertrude end up relying on Oretta to help them through some really hard times. I don’t want to say too much to avoid spoilers, but the title is definitely apt for one of the main themes in the book. The characters are great — they each have very distinct voices. Outside forces make their lives challenging, but, without being perfect, they draw on each other and deep wells of resilience to carry on. This is a great period piece and I gather it is based on stories from the author’s great grandmother and grandmother. I found it hard to put down and it definitely made me teary more than once. This was also a great book to read as a buddy read with Angela and Diane. Thanks to the publisher and the Netgalley for an opportunity to read an advance copy.
Profile Image for Carol.
1,370 reviews2,135 followers
June 17, 2019
Wow! 4.5 Awesome Debut Stars!

"Times is desperate hard, any fool will kill you on the road for a nickel. That much is fact."

1924 rural Branchville, South Carolina is where we meet three women with three distinct alternating voices to tell the story of CALL YOUR DAUGHTER HOME.

Gertrude - Oh the desperation to feed four starving children (OMG baby Mary) while fending off an evil good-for-nothing husband, and can you imagine trying to kill a mama gator in the swamp while she's eyeing you to protect her nest of babies?

Annie - Well to do, but has heartache and BIG family problems of her own....the biggest! No one says no to her husband Edwin.

Oretta - My favorite character who has special gifts and the strength to care for others no matter her station in life....another mother and wife who has suffered great loss....a wife with a memorable husband.

Powerful, intense, well-done story. Would make a great movie!

***Arc provided by HARLEQUIN Trade Publishing in exchange for review***

Profile Image for Libby.
581 reviews157 followers
July 24, 2019
This book’s got a lot of heat in it. People are caught up in their lives and actions of the past are bringing forth consequences. The heat comes from the friction of the main character’s relationships with their family and friends and the birthing of those consequences. There are three strong female characters, all with their own distinct voice. Gertrude is living in the swamp with an abusive husband and their four daughters. There’s more than heat here; it’s an explosive situation. When Gertrude Pardee shows up at Mrs. Annie Cole’s looking for work, Gertrude’s eye is swollen almost shut. ORetta Bootles, Miss Annie’s black housekeeper answers the door, and makes Gertrude back away from the front door, because she says she’s not fit to stand on the porch. Gertrude has her youngest daughter, Mary, in tow; Mary is filthy and sick with fever, and Retta can tell right away that Mary has worms. Mrs. Annie Cole hires Gertrude for a sewing job at the Sewing Circle factory that Mrs. Annie runs along with son, Lonnie.

Set in South Carolina in 1924, Spera creates a dynamic and shifting environment. Things are fluid and changing. A hurricane two thirds of the way through is very symbolic of the upheaval occurring to all the main characters in their psyche. Retta is the most stable; she is like a hub around which Gertrude and Annie pivot. Mrs. Annie is seventy years old, estranged from two daughters, part of the ‘Call Your Daughters Home’ theme. She hasn’t talked to Sarah and Molly in fifteen years. Spera builds her characters and does slow reveals showing how past events have shaped the present. I was taken into emotional scenes in which Spera also evokes the senses, especially visual, and found myself spellbound and deeply invested in outcomes.

Some of Spera’s prose passages are just beautiful. I love the way Spera writes about the love between Retta and Odell. They don’t have a living child. Mary is scared to death of Odell. All she knows of big ole men is that they beat children. That’s what her Daddy did. But Odell is kind and lays his hand on the child’s head when she is scared in the middle of the night and when she climbs into bed beside Retta. These actions are glorious. Retta keeps looking for another shoe to drop.

There are some scenes in this book that remind me that often it is the people we judge most harshly who can be the most kind. Because of attending so many deliveries as a nursery nurse, I am particularly prone to sentiment at childbirth passages. Retta as a midwife attends the delivery of the Indian girl, Nelly. Spera’s description of this delivery just brings my spirit to its knees. It’s beauty and its fit within the book is perfect. Retta also has the gift of presentiment and sees the spirit of people who’ve died. With the skill of an adept writer, Spera makes Retta’s gift feel natural within the pages of this story. What an incredible gift, Deb Spera’s ‘Call Your Daughter Home.’ Highly recommended.
June 14, 2019
4.5 stars

Do you ever read a book and absolutely love everything about it but when you're ready to review/recommend it, all you can do is gush, "It's soooo good!"
That's me right now, highly recommending this historical Southern fiction novel to you.

South Carolina, 1924.  The South is recovering from a massive boll weevil infestation that has devastated the local economy.  The lives of three women are about to intersect in unexpected ways.

"None of us get what we deserve. We make the best of what we got." *

Gertrude is raising four daughters as her husband drinks away their money and becomes increasingly abusive.

Retta is a first-generation freed slave employed by the Coles family who previously owned her family. She lives in the black community known as Shake Rag with her husband; their daughter died when she was just a child.

Annie is the matriarch of the Coles family.  She raised five children; one son commited suicide very young and her two daughters are estranged from the family. 

Each woman is struggling with demons as they find the strength to endure hardship and tragedy.  
Gertrude makes a dangerous decision in order to give her daughters a better life, Retta frets over her husband's health because of a deal she made with God, and Annie grieves for her children all over again after learning a horrific secret about the husband she has stood by for so many years.

"...no matter how many times we think back to what might of been if we could've done one thing different, no matter what, we always come up the same. We live over and over in the happening only to be left with what's already done." *

This is the story of three very different women but what they have in common is motherhood.  Each carries strength and determination born in them when they became mothers and it spurs them on in amazing ways.

"I stood just like my girls stand now. There are days when I look at them and feel I am raising myself." *

I loved the dynamic between Gertrude, Retta, and Annie.  Though their social/class differences have separated them in the deep South, each woman has a particular strength that is able to the lift a weakness in the others and an unspoken but powerful bond is created.

Their stories are heartbreaking and yet I didn't want them to end.  Deb Spera's writing is stellar.  She's created a superb cast of characters that I will not soon forget and a timeless addition to Southern literature.  I have no doubt Call Your Daughter Home will receive a ton of well-deserved praise when it's released in the spring and I'll be in the front row to gush about it!

I cannot possibly thank Park Row and NetGalley enough for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review!  Call Your Daughter Home is scheduled for release on June 11, 2019.

*Quotes included are from an advance readers copy and are subject to change upon final publication.

For more reviews, visit www.rootsandreads.wordpress.com
Profile Image for Kerrin .
293 reviews230 followers
April 28, 2021
Call Your Daughter Home is Deb Spera’s debut novel. It is a dramatic story about three women whose lives are intertwined in South Carolina in 1924. First, there is Gertrude the mother of four daughters. They are living in a house in a swamp, nearly starving to death. Gertrude is able to get a job as a seamstress for Annie. Annie is the wife of the wealthiest man in the community. She and one of her sons own a sewing factory. There was a rift in the family fifteen years earlier, and Annie has not spoken to her two daughters since then. Annie’s maid is Retta, who is a first-generation freed-slave. Retta is also the local mid-wife. She is a wonderful friend and caregiver, as well as the glue that seems to hold the story together.

1924 was a hard time since South Carolina was recovering from a horrible boll weevil infestation. During the course of the novel, more bad things happen including a typhus outbreak and a hurricane. Two of the women must deal with horrible truths about their husbands. Several people are dead before the end of the story. I was reminded of the old Heehaw song “Gloom, despair, and agony on me. . . If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all.” Of course, the three heroines are resilient and strong during these adversities.

3.5 stars rounded up to 4. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoyed The Vanishing Half.
Profile Image for Mackey.
1,055 reviews364 followers
July 2, 2019
Because Call Your Daughter Home was set in a time period I love and am intrigued with, I wanted to enjoy it far more than I actually did. While the book had an intriguing premise, I found the writing a bit too dry to be a thoroughly enjoyable tale. The characters were interesting but not fully engaging. Overall, it was a satisfactory tale but not a book I would necessarily recommend for others.
Profile Image for Michelle.
603 reviews455 followers
October 30, 2018
4 stars!

Thanks to Harlequin and Netgalley for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

The setting of this book is 1924 South Carolina. The region is still recovering from the devastating boll weevil infestation that decimated the cotton crop and left a lot of wealthy plantation owners (and those that depend on them for work) in a lot of trouble. We meet Annie Coles, the matriarch of a well to do family where her husband and oldest son run the tobacco plantation (since their cotton crop is no longer an option). Annie runs a sewing circle with her son Lonnie, where they are at the beginning of a new venture of providing mens and womens clothing to stores throughout the south and Chicago. Retta, is a first generation freed black woman whose family was owned by the Coles and where she is currently employed. Lastly, there is Gertrude, a mother of four girls with an abusive, drunk of a husband. All three women have very different backgrounds, but end up becoming intertwined in ways they wouldn't have anticipated.

This is a very strong novel with great, great writing. There are many highlighted sections and quotes that I included in my Goodreads updates that really spoke to me. All three women are very independent and have a lot of gumption, which is refreshing since there are very tough topics and you never quite feel like they will be defeated. I think this is one of the better showcases of women triumphing when their male counterparts struggle and would be excellent required reading for all the boxes it checks.

I read this book very quickly and while it was a wonderful snapshot I was left wanting more. The Great Depression is just around the corner and with the great cast of characters, I think a sequel would definitely work. Who knows? Maybe Ms. Spera is watching and will consider the idea!
Profile Image for Aga Durka.
199 reviews60 followers
January 9, 2020
Wow, this book just pulled my heart out of my chest and stomped all over it! Such a beautiful story about strong, resilient, and ferocious women. Story of friendship, motherhood, family, love, and survival. The writing style is superb and the characters were believable and likable. Gertrude, Annie,and Retta touched my heart and I was left emotional over what they had to endure and overcome. A must read for every women out there.
Profile Image for Howard.
333 reviews231 followers
May 10, 2023
This is not a review.

I am really late when it comes to this book. It has been rated by almost 34,000 readers with an average rating of 4.24. According to Goodreads, over 200 of my friends and followers (including people that I follow) have read the book and many of my friends wrote positive -- even glowing -- reviews of the book that really struck a chord, especially among women.

Men, however, shouldn't shy away from the book even if it was aimed at women (I don't know if that was even the case), for they especially could learn something from the book.

I gave it 5 stars because: 1) I come from a family of strong women, beginning with my paternal great grandmother and that also includes my mother, sisters and daughters, and that makes the story relevant to me; and 2) because some time ago I created a bookshelf which I call "Tall Woman." When I did that I went back through my books and added those to the shelf that I had already read, but I'm sure that I overlooked some. This book, which features three "tall women," is #52 on that shelf.

After reading the reviews of my friends I know there is nothing that I can add to what they have written. My recommendations are to check out the reviews (there are some excellent ones) and read the book.
Profile Image for Donna.
164 reviews76 followers
October 15, 2018
Sometimes I feel like a motherless child
Sometimes I feel like a motherless child
Sometimes I feel like a motherless child
A long ways from home
A long ways from home
True believer
A long ways from home
A long ways from home
Sometimes I feel like I’m almos’ gone
Sometimes I feel like I’m almos’ gone
Sometimes I feel like I’m almos’ gone
Way up in de heab’nly land
Way up in de heab’nly land
True believer
Way up in de heab’nly land
Way up in de heab’nly land
Sometimes I feel like a motherless child
Sometimes I feel like a motherless child
Sometimes I feel like a motherless child
A long ways from home
There’s praying everywhere
- African American Spiritual

This was not a pretty book. It was depressing, raw, gritty, and ugly. Much as the truth often is. I'm not sure there was even one page that was pleasing in regard to the storyline itself or the lives of the characters. This is not to say that it wasn't a pleasure to read such a wonderfully written book. It certainly was, and it was obvious that the author did her research and knew her topic well.

This is a fictional story told by three women in pre-depression South Carolina. They are Gertrude, Oretta and Annie. Their lives, while vastly different, are entwined and much the same in many ways. They are wives and mothers; they are products of the era and the places in which they lived, they are shaped by the actions of men who figure prominently in their lives. Each of these women meet death on an intimate level, through family members and friends. Sometimes they met death head-on and deliberately, and sometimes they try to hide from it. But they all know it well.

There is almost every kind of monster you can imagine in this book - murder, physical abuse, emotional abuse, bigotry, poverty, suicide, pedophilia. There is also a strong spiritual cover that lays over it all. I am not a religious person; however, this book would not be accurate in an historical sense or for the setting if religion was not included here. Not only that, the mysticism and beliefs among the main characters are critical to their actions throughout the story. Because of these reasons, I found the spirituality described as fascinating and compelling.

I appreciated very much the voices of the three women and the vernacular of the times and locale. There were many expressions that I highlighted in the book due to their beauty or uniqueness or even the fact that they resonate still today, so many decades later.

The book was originally entitled "Alligator," for reasons that are clear as the story is read. I received this as an e-book galley from NetGalley and Harlequin Trade Publishing and Park Row in exchange for my review. I thank them for this opportunity. 4 stars
Profile Image for Kate Vocke (bookapotamus).
576 reviews119 followers
June 15, 2019
Historical Fiction fans: if this one is not on your radar - please pay attention! Call Your Daughter Home is mesmerizing, engrossing, masterful storytelling. It's much more than the title lets on - although it is about mothers, and daughters - it's a lyrical love story, a gripping web of woven struggles and sadness, and also a gorgeous tale of mystery, maybe a bit of murder, and a little dash of magic.

The story follows three women, Gertrude, Retta and Annie, in 1920's South Carolina, and they could not be more different. Gertrude has next to nothing but her starving children and a marriage brimming with abuse by the hand of a boozing husband. Retta is a free slave, battling the ultimate heartbreak, while working for a well-off white family. And Annie, the matriarch of a prominent cotton-farming family, strains to keep her social stature as crops are threatened and secrets threaten to become exposed.

The way these women's stories intertwine is captivating. They separately fight tremendous battles of both inner and outer conflict and your heart swells for all three, as they try to take matters in their own hands - at a time when women often sat on the sidelines quiet, and dependent, on men.

I adored these women. I felt their heartbreak and was uplifted by their triumphs, no matter how small they seemed. You cannot help but be transported through Speras words to a time and place where adversity and misfortune were commonplace, but love, kindness, and respect was the ultimate currency.
Profile Image for Connie G.
1,690 reviews451 followers
July 10, 2021
The early 1920s were desperate times in South Carolina after a multiyear boll weevil infestation destroyed the cotton crops. Then the farmers planted tobacco, but it did not fetch a good price. Hurricanes also ravaged the area.

Three women from different classes and races are trying to hold their lives together in this novel. Gertrude is an impoverished and abused wife trying to keep her four daughters fed and sheltered. Annie is estranged from her daughters, and has recently discovered a devastating family secret. Retta works as a cook for Annie at the plantation where her ancestors were slaves. Retta is a healer, has the gift of sight, loves her husband, and grieves for her daughter who died young.

The lives of these three women intersect during the summer of 1924. Deb Spera's writing is vivid and dramatic. Spirits of the dead haunt the living. The book is worth reading if only to be introduced to Retta with her store of wisdom and caring heart. Lovers of Southern Gothic will especially enjoy this novel. 4.5 stars.
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