Just days after her father’s unexpected death, Ibby Bell is dropped off on her estranged grandmother’s doorstep with nothing but the urn that holds her father’s ashes. Nobody knows when, or if, her mother will return. At Fannie’s house, Ibby is thrust into an entirely new world. Until then, she’d grown up in Olympia, Washington. Now she lives in New Orleans. She’d never lived anywhere with a maid, or a cook, or anything, but Fannie has several people who help her out. As Ibby adjusts to her new life, she also finds out that her family has kept many secrets hidden throughout the years.
I really enjoyed Dollbaby, and it’s hard to pinpoint why I didn’t want to give it a higher rating. The characters are well-developed, and all of them have distinct voices. Queenie and Dollbaby are clearly the backbone of Fannie’s household, and I enjoyed their backstories and side plots. There were a few twists throughout, and I did see all of them coming, but that didn’t ruin it at all for me. I enjoyed learning the details along with Ibby.
The thing that I probably disliked the most is that the book felt almost like a movie script. I felt like there were some awkward transitions that would have done well with a “fade to black” kind of movie transition. At times, especially when Doll and Queenie were telling Ibby about her grandmother’s past, it felt like the stories should be in that kind of fuzzy, weirdly lit effect that movies so often do. It would have helped to better differentiate, because the story jumps at random from a present day conversation to a story, several pages long, about something that happened twenty or forty years ago. It’s not necessarily bad, and of course in the final version may be differentiated a little better, but it took some getting used to. (I also have to admit that I wondered how Doll and Queenie knew so many details about how Fannie was feeling and what she was thinking when she made certain choices. Maybe I wasn’t supposed to feel like they were telling the story. Maybe it was just supposed to be a flashback.)
In the end, I can safely give Dollbaby 3.5/5 stars. Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for the free copy.
Final rating: ★★★☆☆