Thursday, July 3, 2014


Dollbaby by Laura Lane McNeal
Pamela Dorman Books
ebook, 352 pages
ISBN-13: 9780670014736

A big-hearted coming-of-age debut set in civil rights-era New Orleans—a novel of Southern eccentricity and secrets
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.
For fans of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt and The Help, Dollbaby brings to life the charm and unrest of 1960s New Orleans through the eyes of a young girl learning to understand race for the first time.

By turns uplifting and funny, poignant and full of verve, Dollbaby is a novel readers will take to their hearts.

My Thoughts:

Dollbaby by Laura Lane McNeal is a recommended family saga - maybe highly recommended, at least what I read, but more on that later.

Liberty Bell, known as Ibby, was unceremoniously  dropped off at her grandmother Fannie's house in New Orleans, along with the urn containing her father's ashes, by her mother just a couple weeks after her father died. Having grown up in Olympia, Washington, Ibby is new to the ways of the South. Fannies cook, Queenie, her daughter, Babydoll, are there to help Ibby negotiate her way with her grandmother, who just wants to be called Fannie, as well as Southern society during some years when big transitions are happening.
The novel opens in 1964 and then proceeds to the 70's. Obviously these were turbulent times in the country, but especially the South. Fannie has secrets she is hiding too about which Ibby hears hints and insinuations.

From what I read this is a well written novel that does an excellent job establishing character development and the setting. I was enjoying it immensely when my advanced digital reading copy, provided courtesy of the Penguin First to Read Program, expired today, July 3. I was planning to finish the book and post the review today. I understand that Penguin wanted reviews done in a timely manner, but this "by July third" apparently meant before July third because that was when your digital copy would no longer be available. It's difficult to give an accurate rating on a book that I haven't read the ending of due to the publisher's ill-conceived rule.

On a personal note:

I always schedule reviews for review books I receive. I also make a note when I downloaded the book (or received it), when it will be published, who sent the copy, as well as a few other notes. Dollbaby was a late comer as far as being reviewed before July 3rd, but I was trying to squeeze it in, something I may not consider doing again. I can have review books scheduled 6 months in advance. I always review the books I receive and do it on a first come first serve basis, as far as specific publication dates. 
This year has been a heck-of-a-year for me with the death of two close family members less than 2 months apart, as well as a second part time job. It's really amazing I have kept pretty close to my scheduled reviews considering all the emotional upheaval in my life. I may be reluctant to accept another review copy where the publisher has placed intrusive DRM (digital rights management) on the review copy they provide.

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