Friday, August 15, 2014

Dollbaby by Laura Lane McNeal

by:  Laura Lane McNeal
published by:  Pamela Dorman Books
publish date:  July 3, 2014

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.

When I read Dollbaby, I felt like Laura Lane McNeal had grown up watching all the same movies I did and reading all the same books I had.  Looking at her bio, she grew up in New Orleans and she looks to be roughly the same age as me, so it's likely to be true.  

When Liberty Bell's father suddenly dies, her mother drops her off at her grandmother's house in New Orleans.  They've been estranged from Fannie because she didn't think her son was good enough to marry Ibby's mother.  After her father's death, Ibby is thrust into a world she doesn't know with people she doesn't know, grieving her father and not understanding why her mother left her there.  Queenie and Dollbaby do their best to help Ibby adjust to her new surrounding.

The whole time I was reading this book I kept wondering why it was titled Dollbaby and not something else.  It didn't really feel like Dollbaby was the main character.  She was A main character, but not THE main character.  In the end, it made more sense, but I'm not going to give that away.  I thought this was a strong debut novel.  I'm always excited to read books from authors of my home state of Louisiana and Laura Lane McNeal did us proud!

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