Thursday, August 28, 2014

Dollbaby / Laura Lane McNeal / 352 pages

   A debut novel from a woman who grew up in New Orleans. Ibby Bell has just been dumped on her grandmother's front walk. She has never met this woman and in fact has been warned about this woman her entire life. Ibby's mom has just driven off without a goodbye kiss and forgotten to give Ibby her suitcase. Fortunately for her, Queenie is around. She is Fannie's (the grandmother) cook and all around housekeeper. Queenie's daughter Dollbaby also helps around the house, cleaning and sewing and doing whatever needs to be done. Fannie has been alone for most of her life: her husband having never come back from a tugboat journey. She welcomes Ibby (short for Liberty) into her home and begins to initiate her in the ways of the South.
   There are secrets in that house and Ibby learns how to live with them. Why does Fannie act funny when certain names are mentioned, why is there a locked room next to hers and why does Dollbaby have different colored eyes? When Ibby starts school she learns her grandmother is a respected, feared and mocked woman in the town. Certainly Fannie has money but why do people tolerate her behavior? Ibby learns a lot about life and family while growing up in this novel. We meet some interesting characters like Crow, Queenie's husband, Mr. Henry the illegal bet taker who is only to enter through the backdoor, and Annabelle the neighborhood girl who takes an instant dislike to Ibby. They all create a welcoming world for Ibby as well as for the reader. I think patrons who loved To Kill a Mockingbird would appreciate this story. A well told coming of age novel set in some turbulent times of the South. Some language but not too strong. I received this from the Penguin First Flights program.

Six Degrees of Reading: The Right Thing by Amy Conner, Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman and Queen Sugar by Natalie Baszile.

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