The Doll Funeralby Kate Hamer (Website, Twitter)
Published by Melville House on August 15, 2017
Genres: Adoption, Death & Dying, Family, Fantasy, Ghost, Magical Realism, Violence
Source: TLC Book Tours
Amazon • Book Depository • Goodreads
I received this book for free from TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
On Ruby's thirteenth birthday, a wish she didn't even know she had suddenly comes true: the couple who raised her aren't her parents at all. Her real mother and father are out there somewhere, and Ruby becomes determined to find them.
Venturing into the forest with nothing but a suitcase and the company of her only true friend--the imaginary Shadow Boy--Ruby discovers a group of siblings who live alone in the woods. The children take her in, and while they offer the closest Ruby's ever had to a family, Ruby begins to suspect that they might need her even more than she needs them. And it's not always clear what's real and what's not--or who's trying to help her and who might be a threat.
Told from shifting timelines, and the alternating perspectives of teenage Ruby; her mother, Anna; and even the Shadow Boy, The Doll Funeral is a dazzling follow-up to Kate Hamer's breakout debut, The Girl in the Red Coat, and a gripping, exquisitely mysterious novel about the connections that remain after a family has been broken apart.
I really enjoyed Kate Hamer’s The Girl in the Red Coat as the mystery/thriller pulled at my heartstrings while it dealt with a mother whose son had been kidnapped. The author has changed gears a little with her next novel, The Doll Funeral, and has headed into the territory of blending multiple genres successfully. While the story is more historical since it’s set in two timelines–one in 1983 and the other in 1970–the book doesn’t feel too terribly weighed down by dated details as the more subdued paranormal and magical aspects come into play. Overall, the story of 13-year-old Ruby and her birth mother Anna is a tragic and dark one, but there are glimmers of hope of their own making sprinkled in.
On Ruby’s thirteenth birthday in 1983, she finds out that she was adopted and the only parents she’s ever known aren’t her real parents. She’s relieved and upset. Physically and verbally abused by an angry “father” Mick for years and not treated as well as she could be by a meek “mother” Barbara, Ruby decides to find her birth parents. She just knows they’re out there and that they’ll want her back. But little does she know when she sets off into a dark forest that she’ll encounter a group of siblings around her age, who are on their own as well and are willing to take Ruby into their home in the woods. Maybe Ruby can finally find a place to be loved and where she’ll feel like she fits in.
Seventeen-year-old Anna is unexpectedly pregnant in 1970 and no longer with the cocky, self-assured, and well-to-do father. But when he learns of the pregnancy he eventually does what they think is the right thing, and Anna and Lewis move to London to start their family and business. But Anna is often left alone with little Ruby, and Lewis’ career prospects aren’t on the up and up. Post partem depression hits Anna hard, and since this wasn’t something that was as easily recognizable in the 1970s as it is today, she gives up her baby–her precious Ruby.
I really felt for Ruby. Her life wasn’t easy from the start, and her only friend was a shadow figure who’s been following her around since birth. Getting short point of view chapters from Shadow was interesting, and I enjoyed guessing where he came from. There’s always a sense of doom and gloom to Ruby’s life, especially when she lived with Mick and Barbara, but also once she moves in with Tom, Elizabeth, and Crispin in the house in the woods. Ruby is always waiting for something bad to happen or for death to find her, but she’s strong and resilient at the same time. She’s definitely a fighter and a survivor.
I give The Doll Funeral a four out of five. Ultimately this is a story of how you choose your family, you don’t have to be stuck with the one you think you’re born into. Issues of adoption and wanting to know where you come from were explored quite a bit by Ruby, and her struggle was often dark and tinged with sadness. Kate Hamer’s writing was beautiful and descriptive as I expected from her previous book, and The Doll Funeral often had a dark, whimsical, fairy tale vibe to it. I connected easily with Ruby, but I had a little trouble connecting with her mother. It felt like she could have been fleshed out a little more, but this is really Ruby’s journey, so I can see how the focus was on her and how the past affects Ruby in 1983. The pacing of the story was perfect with the short chapters of different points of view, and I really enjoyed reading this as their stories were revealed.
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About Kate Hamer
KATE HAMER is the author of The Girl in the Red Coat, which was a Costa First Novel Award finalist, a Dagger Award finalist, an Amazon Best Book of the Year 2016, and a winner of the ELLE Lettres Readers’ Prize. She lives in Cardiff, Wales, with her husband and two children.
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Kate Hamer’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS for THE DOLL FUNERAL:
Monday, August 14th: Thoughts on This ‘n That
Tuesday, August 15th: Books a la Mode – author guest post
Wednesday, August 16th: Ms. Nose in a Book
Thursday, August 17th: Jathan & Heather
Monday, August 21st: Patricia’s Wisdom
Tuesday, August 22nd: Write Read Life
Thursday, August 24th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Friday, August 25th: Kahakai Kitchen
Monday, August 28th: Art Books Coffee
Tuesday, August 29th: Bewitched Bookworms
Wednesday, August 30th: A Dream Within a Dream
Thursday, August 31st: Books & Bindings
Tuesday, September 5th: Suzy Approved
Thursday, September 7th: Girl Who Reads