Call Your Daughter Home is television producer Deb Spera’s debut novel. It is a dramatic story about three women whose lives are intertwined in Branchville, South Carolina in 1924. First, there is Gertrude, an abused wife, and the mother of four daughters. They are living in a house in a swamp, nearly starving to death because her husband drinks his earnings away. 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 that is starting to grow its business. There was a rift in Annie’s family fifteen years earlier, and she has not spoken to her two daughters since then. Annie’s maid is Retta, who is a first-generation freed-slave. Retta, whose only daughter died young, 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.
Two of the women must face horrible truths about their husbands. The women form an uneasy bond in spite of the drastic differences between their races and social standing. Several people end up dead by the end of the story.
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. Annie’s husband tries to recoup losses by growing tobacco, along with many other farmers. 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 in the bleak South Carolina landscape.
3.5 stars. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoyed The Vanishing Half. I listened to the Audible version, which had three different narrators. The hardcover is 339 pages.