Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Date of Publication: January 11th, 2022
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Contemporary
When Kayla Carter’s husband dies in an accident while building their dream house, she knows she has to stay strong for their four-year-old daughter. But the trophy home in Shadow Ridge Estates, a new development in sleepy Round Hill, North Carolina, will always hold tragic memories. But when she is confronted by an odd, older woman telling her not to move in, she almost agrees. It’s clear this woman has some kind of connection to the area…and a connection to Kayla herself. Kayla’s elderly new neighbor, Ellie Hockley, is more welcoming, but it’s clear she, too, has secrets that stretch back almost fifty years. Is Ellie on a quest to right the wrongs of the past? And does the house at the end of the street hold the key? Told in dual time periods, The Last House on the Street is a novel of shocking prejudice and violence, forbidden love, the search for justice, and the tangled vines of two families.
I’m in the middle of a call with a contractor when Natalie, our new administrative assistant, pokes her head into my office.the last house on the street by diane chamberlain
Before I start this review, I want to apologize to the publisher and author. A few months back, I had posted a review for The Last House on Needless Street on NetGalley, Goodreads, The StoryGraph, and BookBub. See, these two books were right beside each other on not only NetGalley’s list but my Currently Reading on Goodreads. I wasn’t paying attention, and c/p The Last House on Needless Street’s review under The Last House on the Street. I didn’t know what I did until I was contacted by everyone on the above list and asked to remove the review. It was an honest mistake. The titles were (are) so similar, and I should have been paying better attention.
Now that has been said, let’s get onto the review of The Last House on the Street!!
The Last House on the Street is the story of Kayla and Ellie. In the year 2010, Kayla is struggling to overcome the death of her husband and raise their 4-year-old daughter. Moving into the house they built together and where her husband died should be healing. But strange occurrences happen. From a mysterious woman threatening Kayla at work to mutilated squirrels left at her house, Kayla is left wondering why. In 1964, Ellie realized that the world she lives in isn’t equal for everyone. Determined to help, she joined the SCOPE program. But what Ellie doesn’t expect is that she will meet her greatest love that summer and that she will suffer her worst heartbreak. Coming back home wasn’t in Ellie’s plans, but she does to help with her elderly mother and terminally ill brother. She meets Kayla and becomes embroiled in Kayla’s issues. Someone wants Kayla out, and it is all tied to a summer night where Ellie lost everything. What happened that night? What are people trying to hide?
The Last House on the Street is a fast-paced suspense/thriller that doesn’t slow down. The transitions between 2010 and 1964 were seamless and did not mess with the book’s pacing. There was some lag in the middle of the book, but I did expect it. It did not take away from my enjoyment of reading The Last House on the Street.
The Last House on the Street did a great job showing racism in NC during the early 1960s. I was not surprised by the descriptions of how brown and black people were treated during that era. Brown, black, and yellow-skinned people still get treated like that today. It might not be as evident as in 1964, but it is still there.
I wasn’t surprised at how widespread the KKK was in this area of NC (I say this area because I live in the area of NC being portrayed) in the 1960s. I was also sickened by it. The author, again, did a great job of describing the KKK rallies (which reminded me of a fair) and how mob mentality takes over. My heart hurt for Ellie during those scenes because she saw people for how they truly were.
I had no clue about the SCOPE program until I read about it in The Last House on the Street. I can’t even begin to say how those men and women were heroes. They put their lives on the line to get African Americans to go and vote.
I liked Kayla, and I felt terrible for her. She was still getting over her husband’s death when she moved into the house they designed together. I could understand why she didn’t want to move into the house at first. Her husband died there, and she didn’t feel comfortable. She was the only house on the street that was finished, and she seemed to have attracted a stalker, and I didn’t blame her for wanting to sell. I was surprised to see how her and Ellie’s past connected. I still have an issue believing what Ellie’s father told her about that night (back in 1964). I do think that he might have been involved and not admitted it.
I loved Ellie’s character. I loved watching her morph into this woman who wasn’t afraid to fight for what she wanted. She was passionate about her beliefs and was willing to put herself in harm’s way for them. Her connection with the African American families was profound, and she truly wanted what was best for them. But her true strength was that awful night. She fought with everything she had to get to Win but couldn’t get to him. I had tears pouring down my face. Her anxiety, her helplessness, and her despair poured off the pages. Oh, and let’s not forget her shock when everything is revealed at the end of the book. I will admit, I was shocked by that confession too.
There is a romance angle to The Last House on the Street. Ellie’s love for Win was evident. I saw it happening before she even admitted it to herself. And Win was crazy for her. So, it made what happened all the more tragic and heartbreaking. Interracial relationships were frowned upon in 1964 North Carolina, and all holy hell did come down on them.
The mystery angle was wonderfully written. I had an idea of how that mysterious woman was, but when another character mentioned wigs that another wore, it was like a lightbulb went off. Then there was the mystery of what happened to Win. That cropped up a little later in the book. It was a no-brainer what happened, but I hoped it wasn’t the case. That was resolved at the end of the book.
The author wonderfully wrote the suspense angle also. I was kept on the edge of my bed (I was reading at night) with what would happen next. I kept wondering how it would escalate for Kayla, and I wondered the same thing for Ellie.
The secondary characters were also wonderfully written. I had extreme feelings for them all. But Miss Pat, Ellie’s mother, well she took the cake. She was, ugh, I wish I could finish that thought. But that would give away spoilers. Let’s say I didn’t like her and leave it at that.
The end of The Last House of the Street was what I expected. The author wrapped everything up, opening a new chapter on Ellie and Kayla’s life. I liked seeing everything coming full circle!!
I would recommend The Last House on the Street for anyone 16 and over. There is non-graphic sex, violence, triggering language.