Good morning, everyone! Today I'm a stop on the TLC book tour for Lisa O'Donnell's latest, Closed Doors.
While life in Scotland during the Thatcher years is undergoing many changes, life in the Murray house is relatively stable. Ma has a job cleaning at the school, Granny stays home and cooks (even though she's not so great at it), and Da can always be counted on to share his opinions about the PM's exploits. Eleven-year-old Michael Murray spends much of his time piecing together bits he overhears - things his parents believe he's not necessarily old enough for - and keeping secrets. Then something terrible happens to Michael's ma. He isn't sure what it is but he knows it's bad. Bad enough that his parents don't want anyone to know. Bad enough that his ma had to go to the hospital. Michael knows that keeping this secret is tearing his family apart, but he doesn't know that it could have terrible consequences for everyone around them.
It's a strange thing when particular plot devises appear in multiple titles in my TBR so close together. It wasn't so terribly long ago that I read another book about a young boy's snooping (Mona Simpson's Casebook) and so it was fairly impossible not to end up comparing the two.
There were issues that I'd had in reading Simpson's book, however, that definitely were not present in Closed Doors. For one, I didn't begin Closed Doors with any real expectation that it would be either a thriller or a mystery. For another, the end here was much more satisfying than that of Casebook.
O'Donnell does an excellent job giving Michael an authentic voice both in age and in setting (Scotland during a very specific period of history). Michael is a bit of a charmer for a reader like me, he's innocent enough that he doesn't truly understand the things going on around him (the somewhat nasty gossip about certain neighbors and the attack on his mother, for example) but he's at an age when it's all beginning to come into focus. His own curiosity and mixed feelings about all of it are so believable that it was hard not to get emotionally involved in his tale.
The setting here, too, is very important. Not that the story itself wouldn't occur in the same way in any close-knit neighborhood during this time period, but that O'Donnell's efforts in bringing Rothesay and the housing estate to life for an American reader who was just a child during the time period in question pays off. I think the time period also adds to that feeling of innocence that surrounds Michael - I don't know that a child today would believably react to or understand (misunderstand) the things around him in the same way.
Closed Doors is a somewhat intense read (it's fairly short but I wouldn't describe it as a quick read by any means because of the nature of it's subject). The intensity comes, however, from the narrator as a child rather than any graphic or particularly disturbing detail.
To see more stops on the tour be sure to check out the official TLC tour page here.
For more on O'Donnell and her work be sure to visit her website here. You can also like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.