This one, from all that I’ve heard, is a dead ringer for The Help. It’s about race relations in the south, New Orleans this time, during the height of the Civil Rights movement. I had hopes — perhaps not high ones, but hopes nonetheless — that this one would be good.
It’s the summer of 1964, and the main character, Ibby (short for Liberty), is dropped off at her grandmother’s house. She’s all of 12 years old and her father has recently died in a freak accident. So, Ibby’s mother, who hates the idea of being a single parent (“hates” is too mild a word), foists Ibby on her mother-in-law, Fannie, without warning. It doesn’t start off well, mostly because Fannie is one of those eccentric Southern ladies who believes in being proper and feisty and doesn’t trust anyone except her help, who are pretty much like family. (But heaven forbid if her granddaughter takes up with a colored man, as she tries to do when she’s older.)
Dollbaby is full of those quirky Southern characters, doing quirky Southern things, but that wasn’t enough to hold my interest. The plot was lacking, and I didn’t connect with the characters at all. The racism grated — I know: it’s supposed to grate — and I didn’t feel McNeal gave her black characters any depth. Perhaps it’s just been too long since I’ve lived in the Deep South, because instead of charming me, this one just bored me.
Rated: Moderate, for 5 to 6 uses of strong language, other milder language and a rape scene, in addition to mild racist violence and insinuations as well as some more adult themes.