19 August 2014

Today's Read: Dollbaby by Laura Lane McNeal

Imagine that you're almost twelve years old when your father dies. Then just days later your mother drives you from Seattle to your grandmother's house in New Orleans. That might be OK, but you never even knew you had a grandmother, and now you're watching your mother drive off, with no clear idea of when she'll return. This is what happened to Ibby Bell in early July of 1964:

There are times you wish you could change things, take things back, pretend they never existed. This was one of those times, Ibby Bell was thinking as she stared bug-eyed out the car window. Amid the double-galleried homes and brightly painted cottages on Prytania Street, there was one house that didn't belong.
Dollbaby by Laura Lane McNeal (Penguin USA / Pamela Dorman Books, 2014, p. 3)

Quick Facts
  • Setting: New Orleans, 1960s
  • Circumstances: After her father dies, Ibby Bell is left at her fraternal grandmother's house in New Orleans. Ibby doesn't understand why her mother abandoned her and she feels lost in a world that includes household staff, civil rights unrest, Vietnam War protests, church, and unfamiliar foods. As she matures into a young woman, Ibby learns that life is unpredictable and sometimes "you got to dance, even when there ain't no music."
  • Characters: Liberty Bell (teenage years); Fannie Bell, her eccentric grandmother; Queenie, Babydoll, and the rest of the Trout family; various neighbors and friends
  • Genre: historical fiction; coming of age; Southern fiction
  • Themes: family, love, civil rights, doing what's right, helping those who need our help
  • What I liked: I'm not quite finished yet, but McNeal has created memorable characters, each with their own issues, who help one another as best they can. I particularly like following Ibby's maturation, as she gains perspective on social class differences and human rights.
  • Recommendations: Even though I haven't gotten to the end, I can recommend Dollbaby for anyone who likes a good coming-of-age story, quirky characters, and time pieces. Although the topics are deep (making it a good book club choice), the novel can also be approached on a lighter level as a good summer read. Yes, Fannie's life is sometimes hard to believe, but I have enjoyed getting to know her, Queenie, Dollybaby, and Ibby.
  • Audiobook: I listened to the unabridged audiobook (Penguin Audio; 11 hr, 12 min) read by January Levoy. Let me cut to the chase: Levoy's performance is nothing short of brilliant. I love her characterizations and that she changes her tone so we can tell that Ibby is growing up. I can't distinguish among Southern accents, but I think Levoy does a great job with the various Louisiana dialects. Don't hesitate to listen to this one.


JoAnn 8/19/14, 7:16 AM  

This is already on my print wish list, but after listening to the audio sample, I've added it to my audible list, too!

rhapsodyinbooks 8/19/14, 7:42 AM  

I started this, but I have to say I just couldn't get into it. I think even the character names....

Sarah (Sarah's Book Shelves) 8/19/14, 7:51 AM  

I liked this one a lot...especially loved how they included so much about Southern cooking. Sort of worked it in around conversations that were happening in the kitchen.

Kim@Time2Read 8/19/14, 8:07 AM  

I've seen this one around and have it on my list!
Today I am featuring "Cancel The Wedding' by Carolyn T. Dingman.

Daryl 8/19/14, 8:14 AM  

not sure its my taste but on my first time in N'awlins we stayed literally around the corner (on Charles) from Prytania!

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea 8/19/14, 8:52 AM  

Love that intro and a book I want to read as well --- enjoy👍

Maya Love 8/19/14, 9:01 AM  

It's an intriguing opener. I would read on

Catherine BookClubLibrarian 8/19/14, 9:12 AM  

I loved this story and its characters. One of the best novels I've read this year.

My Tuesday post: http://www.bookclublibrarian.com/2014/08/first-chapter-first-paragraph-72-and.html

grammajudyb 8/19/14, 9:32 AM  

I want to read this one. 1964 was an important year in our country and in my personal life. I graduated HS, got married, started a family, etc etc. I love books set in the 60's.

Jessica F. 8/19/14, 10:36 AM  

Great teaser, especially the first sentence!

Here's My Tuesday Teaser of It Girl by Nic Tatano :: http://frommetoyouvideophoto.blogspot.com/2014/08/teaser-tuesday-it-girl.html

Rita_h 8/19/14, 10:47 AM  

Definitely would read and have it on my wishlist already! I love stories set at least part in the 1960's and coming of age stories. Thanks for highlighting it.

Yvonne 8/19/14, 11:20 AM  

I've seen this one around and it really does sound like a great book.

Literary Feline 8/19/14, 11:26 AM  

This sounds really interesting, especially that grandmother. From the intro, I would keep reading.

Heather 8/19/14, 11:33 AM  

Sounds like an interesting read! Mine: No Graves As Yet

Sandra Nachlinger 8/19/14, 11:42 AM  

This sounds like an excellent book. I like the New Orleans setting.
My Teaser is from KATIE & THE IRISH TEXAN.

Creations by Laurel-Rain Snow 8/19/14, 12:01 PM  

I just finished this one last week, and what a delightful read! A unique peek into a world swirling in racial tensions and all the other issues of the times. Thanks for sharing...and for visiting my blog.

Peggy Farooqi 8/19/14, 12:20 PM  

I love the quote 'you got to dance even if there ain't no music'. I would continue reading.
Peggy @ The Pegster Reads

kelley jensen 8/19/14, 12:30 PM  

I'm very interested, I'd keep going. Enjoy your book. kelley—the road goes ever ever on

Margot 8/19/14, 12:59 PM  

This is the kind of story I'd enjoy listening to. Your high recommendation has made me put it on my Audible wish list. Thanks.

Kristin 8/19/14, 1:18 PM  

Hmm, sounds interesting! I hadn't heard of this one before.

Here's my teaser!

Topazshell 8/19/14, 2:58 PM  

Ibby Bell has her work cut out for her. She doesn't know her grandmother. She's in new surroundings. Her mother is gone. I would like to read this one and root for Ibby. I like the name Ibby Bell.

Tribute Books Mama 8/19/14, 3:23 PM  

Sounds good to me.


Kerry O'Donnell 8/19/14, 5:29 PM  

Sounds like an interesting place! I'm curious to know more about the character, and the house that doesn't belong!
My Teaser.

Shirley 8/19/14, 5:30 PM  

I haven't read this one but I am impressed by all the information you included in this post.

Nise' 8/19/14, 7:10 PM  

I have this book and want to read it now! But learning that January LaVoy narrates, I think I will have to listen instead.

Lu @ Regular Rumination 8/19/14, 8:48 PM  

You definitely convinced me to check out this one on audio!

Missie 8/19/14, 8:49 PM  

I cannot wait to read this one!
Missie @ A Flurry of Ponderings

(Diane) bookchickdi 8/21/14, 7:29 AM  

I've been circling this book for awhile now, your review has helped me decide to read it.

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