Dollbaby: A Novel by Laura Lane McNeal
Release Date - July 2014
Laura Lane McNeal
Pamela Dorman Books
Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth
Liberty "Ibby" Bell is only 12 when her mother drops her off at her grandmother's New Orleans home. Ibby is grieving the tragic death of her father and isn't happy that she's moving in with a woman she's never met. Fannie isn't a typical grandmother, however, and soon Ibby finds herself embraced in a home where nothing is to be expected.
Fannie has her secrets and regrets. Despite her demeanor, she adores Ibby and loves that she has a part of her son with her. Along with Fannie are her cook, Queenie; Queenie's sassy, somewhat strong-willed daughter, Dollbaby; and Dollbaby's daughter,who is just about Ibby's age.
As Ibby gets to know her new family, she still longs for her mother, who simply doesn't seem to want to return. The story progresses into a coming-of-age story for Ibby in which she learns family secrets, the things that have shaped Fannie's life, and the changes in the world around her as the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement shape a nation.
Dollbaby is a novel I won't soon forget. I thought I had Fannie's secret figured out early on, but while I was close, I wasn't right. Though that mystery is a part of the story, the real focus is on the relationships that build and change as Ibby progresses from an uncertain 12 year old into a young woman. It's a fabulous read and one I am very glad I didn't overlook.