Historical-Fiction, Coming-of-Age, Civil Rights Era
My Rating 3.5 Stars
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 secret.
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.
MY THOUGHTS I’ve been wanting to read this one since it’s release last year, and I finally just grabbed it from the library. I liked it very much, but in the end I didn’t feel a lot of the emotions that I usually get from reading stories pertaining to the Civil Rights Era. As you know, I’m a Southern girl. Sure, reading such poignant stories can have a person all in their feelings. But, isn’t that what books are supposed to do? This one doesn’t have that distinctive flavor that lets you know that you are, in fact, reading a tale that takes place during that time. Still, the writing is beautiful and even though I wasn’t emotionally worn out from reading this, I very much liked the characters.
This story is about Ibby, who is in the care of her kooky grandmother, and her curiosity about her family. There is her day-to-day life unfolding and we get to know her as a character. She’s really timid, and her feelings of abandonment and being alone made great traits for her character; as we slowly get to see her truly feel wanted and loved by the end. Now, Dollbaby is just a secondary character who makes insightful comments and gives advice when necessary. With her name being the title for this book, I surely thought that she would be driving the plot. Maybe it’s just because of the bond that they have, as there were lots of that going on in those days. The “help” were more aware of the kids than the ones who brought them into this world.
With this tale being during the year that outlawed discrimination, it hardly touched upon even a fraction of that history. We just know that it’s happening. I would have liked more of the story centered around that. With that said, again, this is the story of Ibby and her grandmother Fannie. The ending was not what I expected. I mean, yeah Fannie is erratic, but that was totally unexpected. And that is what is most memorable about this story to me. If you are looking for a powerful Southern tale, like To Kill A Mockingbird, then this isn’t that book. However, if you like your Southern tales with some formalities then this is the book for you. It’s not heavy and it’s a very quick read. Recommended.