The Doll Funeral by Kate Hamer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The Doll Funeral is a thriller with a strong paranormal element. Set in and around England’s Forest of Dean, this book mixes a dual time line with occasional alternative points of view.
It’s 1983, when Ruby turns thirteen, her parents tell her, in a very cold and detached manner, that she is adopted. This both frightens and thrills her, explaining some of her own feelings and allowing her to break free of any emotional attachment to a dad who physically abuses her. The latest beating keeps her off school at the start of a new term. Her absence affects precious friendship links and added to the way she is already ostracised, because of a facial birthmark, it makes school harder.
In 1970 teenager Anna found she was pregnant. She decided to put the unwanted baby up for adoption, but once the baby was born the situation changed. Instead she agreed to start a new life with the father of the baby and raise their daughter together; but what happened? The story of Ruby.
Ruby’s new knowledge makes her desperate to find her parents. In the safety of the woods she uses an invoking spell to bring them into her life. The paranormal has always been part of Ruby’s life; she sees ghosts and has a follower she calls ‘shadow’, a timid character who she speaks to at times. Shadow fears the invoking spell will bring trouble.
This is a complex book, diving and twisting through Ruby’s life as she struggles to find her real parents. It reflects the anguish of a struggling, lonely teen. The dual timeline allowed me to piece together some of the patchwork of information, but it was the raw suffering that Ruby went through which pulled me in as I read the book. I enjoyed the paranormal elements of the book and I felt they were stronger than the thriller components. Ruby’s age and those of the other teenagers around her keep this book’s potential violence contained within the thresholds of those heading for adulthood, so it could easily be read by mature young adult readers.
Overall this is a book about a child, desperate to be loved and wanted who sets her hopes on the parents who gave her away. But will her real family fit the one she dreams of?
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My name is Ruby. I live with Barbara and Mick. They’re not my real parents, but they tell me what to do, and what to say.
But there are things I won’t say. I won’t tell them I’m going to hunt for my real parents. I don’t say a word about Shadow, who sits on the stairs, or the Wasp Lady I saw. Or that I’m a hunter for lost souls.
I’m going to be with my real family. And I won’t let anyone stop me.
Kate Hamer grew up in the West Country and Wales. She studied art and worked for a number of years in television and radio. In 2011 she won the Rhys Davies Short Story Prize and her short stories have appeared in many collections. Her novel THE GIRL IN THE RED COAT was published in the UK by Faber & Faber, in the US by Melville House and has been translated into 17 different languages. It was shortlisted for The Costa First Novel Prize, the British Book Industry Awards Debut Fiction Book of the Year, The John Creasy (New Blood) Dagger and the Wales Book of the Year. It was a Sunday Times bestseller. Her new novel THE DOLL FUNERAL has been a Radio4 Open Book editor’s pick and a Bookseller Book of the Month.
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