Civil-rights era New Orleans is the setting for this historical novel about a matriarch who takes her granddaughter into her home, and the decades-old secrets that are eventually revealed.
— Buzzy, Raleigh
July 2014 Indie Next List
“In 1964 Ibby Bell's father passed away, causing her mother to abandon Ibby to the care of her eccentric grandmother, Fannie, and her grandmother's black housemaids, a mother and daughter duo named Queenie and Dollbaby. Fannie lives in an old New Orleans mansion which hasn't changed over the years, its boarded rooms harboring tragic memories from the past. With help from Queenie and Dollbaby, Ibby unearths family history that Fannie had long ago buried. Can Ibby come to terms with what she's discovered? A compelling debut novel that demands and deserves attention.”
— Courtney Kane, Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza, Albany, NY
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.
About the Author
Laura Lane McNeal grew up in New Orleans, where she lives today with her husband and two sons. She graduated from Southern Methodist University. She also has an MBA from Tulane and ran her own marketing consulting firm in New Orleans. This is her first novel.
“In this tender coming-of-age novel, McNeal brings to life a place, an era, and an amazing cast of strong, larger-than-life characters. Heartrending, captivating, and ultimately, triumphant.” —Cassandra King, New York Times bestselling author of Moonrise
“McNeal’s Dollbaby is such an impressive debut—a powerful roux of family drama, long-simmering secrets and resentments, and ultimately, forgiveness and redemption. Deeply evocative, with memorable characters, Dollbaby belongs on the keeper shelf along with The Help and The Secret Life of Bees.” —Mary Kay Andrews, New York Times bestselling author of Ladies' Night
“Deeply southern and evocative, Laura Lane McNeal’s beautifully written debut, Dollbaby, takes us back to a not-so-long ago time when we were learning to look through different eyes at the fabric of our society, race, youth and family." —Susan Crandall, author of Whistling Past the Graveyard
"This flavorful and enthralling novel brilliantly captures New Orleans during the civil rights era. It's a deeply personal tale about growing up and searching for family as well as a provocative exploration of race and kinship. I found it both thrilling and poignant." —Walter Isaacson, New York Times bestselling author of Steve Jobs
"There is plenty of mystery and deception in Dollbaby, but the prevailing theme is love and its power to blast away even the biggest betrayals. Reading this evocative Southern novel is like alternately sipping sweet tea and healthy snorts of bournon." —Lorna Landvik, bestselling author of Patty Jane's House of Curl
"Don't be surprised if you see McNeal's book in a lot of beach totes along the Gulf Coast this summer."—New Orleans Times Picayune
“When someone asks you for a great book to read, usually you pause and think about genre and authors and then give a few options. But every now and then there’s a book you tell everyone to read, because it is that good. Dollbaby by Laura Lane McNeal is that book.” —Durham Herald-Sun
“A vivid portrayal of post-war New Orleans, lush and evocative in its descriptions, McNeal’s unique voice shines through surprising and pleasing the reader. Fans of Pat Conroy and Sue Monk Kidd will enjoy this new Southern talent.” —Library Journal (starred review)
"In the vein of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt and The Help, McNeal's touching coming-of-age tale brings to life Civil Rights-era New Orleans. . . . Rich characterization makes McNeal's debut a lovely summer read."—Kirkus
“A touching coming-of-age story that is sincere and poignant.”—Booklist
"McNeal's witty prose and expertise on all things New Orleans will enrapture readers of The Help and Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood."—BookPage
“Beautifully rendered and perfectly paved, Dollbaby is one novel this year not to be missed, with just the right amount of mystery mixed with coming of age drama.”--Book Reporter