Friday, March 20, 2015

Overly Ambitious Southern Novel Just Okay

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

When a freak bicycle accident takes her husband's life, Vidrine Bell snaps.  Needing "time to think," she dumps her 11-year-old daughter in Louisiana, at the home of the girl's paternal grandmother.  Liberty "Ibby" Bell has never seen anything like New Orleans, let alone the giant, crumbling mansion in which she's going to be living.  Then, there's Frances "Fannie" Hadley Bell, Ibby's eccentric grandmother who's been in and out of the insane asylum for years.  Queenie, the maid who "came with the house," warns Ibby never to bring up Fannie's past and never to ask questions if Fannie brings it up.

Intrigued by all the secrets swirling around the big old house, Ibby slowly learns about her family's history.  Under the tutelage of Queenie and her outspoken daughter, Dollbaby, she also gets an education about how to get along in the 1960s South.  As Ibby's friendship with Queenie's granddaughter grows, she gets a taste of the vicious racism of which some people are capable.  Despite the friction, Ibby feels her new home and family growing on her.  What once was foreign is now not just familiar, but also comforting.  As her definition of family changes, Ibby wonders what will happen when—and if—her mother comes to take her away.  Can she leave behind The Big Easy, with all its charms, secrets, and people she's grown to love?  

Told in the alternating voices of Ibby, Dollbaby and Fannie, Dollbaby by Laura Lane McNeal oscillates between the past and the present.  It tells a compelling story, made even more layered by the different voices through which it is filtered.  The novel definitely rambles in a way that feels unfocused and over-reaching, like the author's trying to cover a little too much territory.  Much of it feels cliché as well as predictable.  While these things tarnished my enjoyment of the novel, overall, Dollbaby kept me reading.  In the end, I didn't love it, didn't hate it, just found it okay.  

(Readalikes:  Reminded me a bit of The Help by Kathryn Stockett)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for language, violence, depictions of illegal drug use, and sexual innuendo/content

To the FTC, with love:  I bought a copy of Dollbaby from Amazon with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger.  Ha ha.

2 comments:

  1. Sigh. What's with all the lack lustre books for us lately. Well, with me anyway. Sorry this one was only so so. At least it kept you reading.

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  2. The premise of this is definitely intriguing but the fact that it was predictable and unfocused is a bit disappointing. This is the kind of book that I think would have to be really special or I wouldn't enjoy it. Thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete

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