Author Julie Kibler
Julie Kibler is the bestselling author of Home for Erring and Outcast Girls and Calling Me Home, which was an IndieNext List pick, Target Club Pick, and Ladies’ Home Journal Book Club Pick, published in fifteen languages. She has a bachelor’s degree in English and journalism and a master’s degree in library science and lives with her family, including four rescued dogs and cats, in Texas.
Home for Erring and Outcast Girls
An emotionally raw and resonant story of love, loss, and the enduring power of friendship, following the lives of two young women connected by a home for “fallen girls,” and inspired by historical events.
In turn-of-the-20th century Texas, the Berachah Home for the Redemption and Protection of Erring Girls is an unprecedented beacon of hope for young women consigned to the dangerous poverty of the streets by birth, circumstance, or personal tragedy. Built in 1903 on the dusty outskirts of Arlington, a remote dot between Dallas and Fort Worth’s red-light districts, the progressive home bucks public opinion by offering faith, training, and rehabilitation to prostitutes, addicts, unwed mothers, and “ruined” girls without forcibly separating mothers from children. When Lizzie Bates and Mattie McBride meet there—one sick and abused, but desperately clinging to her young daughter, the other jilted by the beau who fathered her ailing son—they form a friendship that will see them through unbearable loss, heartbreak, difficult choices, and ultimately, diverging paths.
A century later, Cate Sutton, a reclusive university librarian, uncovers the hidden histories of the two troubled women as she stumbles upon the cemetery on the home’s former grounds and begins to comb through its archives in her library. Pulled by an indescribable connection, what Cate discovers about their stories leads her to confront her own heartbreaking past, and to reclaim the life she thought she’d let go forever. With great pathos and powerful emotional resonance, Home for Erring and Outcast Girls explores the dark roads that lead us to ruin, and the paths we take to return to ourselves.
In a sentence or two, what is your book about?
When a modern-day university librarian discovers a cemetery at the site of a former home for “fallen women” on her Texas campus and delves into the home’s history–and particularly that of two women who lived there in the early 1900s–she begins to deal with her own tragic past. Strengthened by their stories, she must decide if she’s brave enough to reclaim what she thought she’d lost forever.
Why did you write it?
I had begun writing several other stories after my first novel was published. Calling Me Home was inspired by something that happened with my grandmother and was such a story of my heart, I knew I wouldn’t stick with another until I felt the same relentless passion I’d had writing it. The true history behind Home for Erring and Outcast Girls, along with the current day topics it explores, sucked me in so completely, I knew it was the one I was meant to write next. The issues it explores are near and dear to my heart.
What was the spark for the story?
I came across a list of the “most haunted places in Arlington, Texas,” (where the book is set) and read through it as I’d lived in Arlington for years. The cemetery for the former Berachah Industrial Home was at the bottom of the list. I was quickly drawn into the history of this place I’d never heard of before.
What do you hope readers will take away from the book?
Home for Erring and Outcast Girls is first and foremost a story of grace and redemption. It deals with touchy topics, both in the past and present, and I hope readers will read thoughtfully and consider the values they hold true–even if certain things in the story rub them the wrong way. I believe reading is one of the very best ways to explore our ideals and our commitments to them. Sometimes reading has changed my mind about something I felt very sure of before. I also hope readers will recognize the incredible importance of strong friendships among women, and how we need to stick together and stick up for each other.
Can you share something interesting that happened while you were writing the book—an unexpected encounter, something you learned about the subject or about yourself?
One winter day several years ago, I visited a location in Oklahoma City where I knew one of my historical characters from Home for Erring and Outcast Girls had lived and died. As I stood there, in the very spot, I realized that at that particular moment in time, I almost certainly knew more about two women born more than a century ago than anyone else in the world. I had grown to love Mattie and Lizzie during my research and writing, as if they were living and breathing beings, and it was both surreal and humbling to know I held their stories in my heart and hands to share with readers. In that emotional moment, I could only hope I had done their stories justice.
Do you have any suggestions for our book clubs—a link to a reader’s guide, or a question or two that might open a lively discussion at a book club meeting?
You can find a book club kit on my website with extra information about the book, discussion questions, fun recipes for your meeting, a music playlist and more.
Is there anything else you would like the Pulpwood Queens Book Clubs to know about you or your book?
I appreciate book clubs so much–especially the Pulpwood Queens clubs! I know that book clubs are the main reason Calling Me Home sold well and continues to sell, and I’m seeing the same trajectory for Home for Erring and Outcast Girls so far. Thank you so much for reading and talking about my stories and telling others about them. I couldn’t do it without you. I love hearing from you and talking by phone and FaceTime with your groups.
On a random note — I finally learned to drink coffee without hating it this year. I never thought it would happen in the more than five decades (shhh!) I’ve been alive. It requires highly precise doctoring.
You needed to know that, right? 😀
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