By Laura Lane McNeal
Viking, 2014. 337 pages. Fiction.
When 12-year-old Liberty (Ibby) Bell's mother leaves her with the grandmother she never met after her father's death, Ibby is sure that life will never be the same again. And fortunately for her, her prediction comes true. Raised by the eccentric Fannie Bell, Fannie's long-time cook, Queenie, and Queenie's dressmaker daughter, Dollbaby, Ibby learns about love and loss against the backdrop of 1960s New Orleans.
McNeal's real talent in this book is creating scene - New Orleans comes alive in her writing. The story is something of a cross between The Help and Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, covering both child abandonment and race relations, but manages to stand on its own and feel fresh and original. The characters were interesting and the plot had enough twists and turns to keep you reading to find out what will unfold next, especially as Ibby learns more about her grandmother's past. While the writing itself sometimes falls a little awkwardly, overall it was an interesting read. 99% clean read, with a few instances of strong language popping up toward the end.