CALLING OUT is the story of a young woman who "runs away" to Utah after being dumped by her boyfriend. She wants to live a life that is different from what she has been accustomed to back in New York. So she ends up working the phones at an escort service in the heart of Mormon country (which in itself is a bit contradictory). The girls must follow strict rules that, when broken, could lead to a fine or worse. As long as they abide by these adherences, they do not consider themselves prostitutes.
Jane, who calls herself Roxanne at the office (all the girls use fake names to protect their identities), enjoys her work but is tempted to be an escort like the others. In the meantime, her friend (and one-time lover) Ford is in town, staying at her apartment along with a current girlfriend, Ember, who both Ford and Jane are attracted to in different ways. There are various scenes between Ember and Jane that may make one think that the two are headed toward a lesbian-type relationship; it does appear that Jane is attracted to Ember's personality as well as her physical presence. In some ways Ford is jealous of the bond they develop, which seems to play a pivotal role in his future with Ember. When Ford decides to move back to Moab, Jane is excited because she knows that Ember is contemplating staying in town --- especially since she is now one of the escort girls --- to Ford's disappointment. Jane can finally have Ember to herself.
The gist of CALLING OUT is Jane's need to prove to herself and the world that she can live a life that is exciting and different from what her ex-boyfriend McAllister accused her of doing, which was living a very boring and predictable existence. Oddly enough, McAllister is still in her life, constantly calling her at work whenever his current girlfriend is away. While Jane says she has no desire to be with him again, one wonders whether or not this is actually true. She also seems to have a need for Ford to hang around, but at the same time she likes the idea of having Ember to herself --- and Ford knows it.
Scott is a frequent caller to the escort service, but he refuses to see anyone but Jane. The two flirt every time he calls, and when Jane finally decides to become an escort by choosing him as her first customer, she enters a whole new world, filled with excitement and danger. She embraces this lifestyle, joining Ember who by this time has become more dependent on cocaine. McAllister is disappointed to hear the direction in which Jane's life is taking her --- as are Ford and his friend Ralf, a young Mormon who has a crush on Jane, not realizing that she has entered the sordid world of escorting.
For those who enjoy books in which the pages seem to turn on their own, CALLING OUT is the book for you. The characters are quirky enough to keep the reader interested, while at the same time they seem to stay within the realm of reality, though always on the edge. The backdrop of Mormon Utah gives the novel a surreal feeling, mainly because of the presumption that Mormons and the state of Utah are always within the bounds of morality. Instead, Jane and her friends live in a world filled with drugs and sex. Jane's workers are equally as interesting, each with their own stories of why they are in the business to service men. And all the while, they tell themselves they are not prostitutes and that what they're doing is legal. It's when a customer crosses that fine line that the girls find themselves in trouble.
CALLING OUT is highly recommended, and I'm looking forward to Rae Meadows's next endeavor.
Reviewed by Marie Hashima Lofton on December 26, 2010