Review: Dollbaby by Laura Lane McNeal
Expected Publication: July 3, 2014
Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books
Format: via publisher
When Ibby Bell’s father dies unexpectedly in the summer of 1964, her mother unceremoniously deposits Ibby with her eccentric grandmother Fannie and throws in her father’s urn for good measure. Fannie’s New Orleans house is like no place Ibby has ever been—and Fannie, who has a tendency to end up in the local asylum—is like no one she has ever met. Fortunately, Fannie’s black cook, Queenie, and her smart-mouthed daughter, Dollbaby, take it upon themselves to initiate Ibby into the ways of the South, both its grand traditions and its darkest secrets.
For Fannie’s own family history is fraught with tragedy, hidden behind the closed rooms in her ornate Uptown mansion. It will take Ibby’s arrival to begin to unlock the mysteries there. And it will take Queenie and Dollbaby’s hard-won wisdom to show Ibby that family can sometimes be found in the least expected places.
This was way more fantastic than I could never have imagined. Dollbaby has everything that I want in a really great book. There is family, a bit of a mystery as far as buried family secrets and a great coming of age storyline. Plus I am a bit obsessed with the 60’s so this made it way more interesting in my eyes I had to read it, not to mention it’s set in the South… a PLUS in my book!
We start off when Ibby was a young girl and her mom drops her off at her grandmother’s house after the death of her father. Ibby has never met her grandmother so she doesn’t know what’s in store for her. Soon Ibby is left to wonder if her mother will ever return, in the meantime she is set to get to know her grandmother. Ibby is just a girl coming of age and trying to deal with the fact that all she has in her life is Fannie, although she claims she doesn’t care about her mother she does. She struggles with growing up and making friends and not to mention trying to learn who her grandmother really is and why she acts the way she does sometimes.
Fannie has some buried secrets that no one knows except her confidant cook Queenie. Queenie is indeed the keeper to Fannie’s secrets and both care for each other like family. Fannie hasn’t always had the best life. She ran away when she was young and had to do things she didn’t like to survive. She soon meets her soon to be husband and together they have two sons. One dies very young and Fannie never recovers from it. She has these “episodes” and is sent off from time to time to recover. When Ibby comes into her life they soon bond and she doesn’t want to let her go. We slowly learn of Fannie’s backstory and it is one of hardship and pain. The supporting characters are Queenie and her daughter Dollbaby. While they bring some comical laughs to this book their family story also brought me to tears. Once secrets are revealed you can’t help but cry and realized all the pain they have endured in their lives.
I loved how this book spanned some years and we see Ibby grown up. We see a once shy and timid girl grow up and become a strong young lady. She was determined to know the truth about her family and not to continue burying family secrets. She is proud of her family…all of them. This is by far one of my favorite books this year. It sheds a light on growing up in a time when the world was radically changing but its main focus is family. It will make you laugh and cry…honestly the end had me sobbing…but most importantly it’s just an honest to god awesome read. If you read any book this year read this one it’s definitely worth it.