BOOK TOUR REVIEW: Closed Doors by Lisa O’Donnell
by Lisa O’Donnell
Eleven-year-old Michael Murray is the best at two things: hacky sack and keeping secrets. His family thinks he’s too young to hear grown-up stuff, but he listens at doors—it’s the only way to find out anything. And Michael’s heard a secret, one that may explain the bruises on his mother’s face.
When the whispers at home and on the street become too loud to ignore, Michael begins to wonder if there is an even bigger secret he doesn’t know about. Scared of what might happen if anyone finds out, and desperate for life to return to normal, Michael sets out to piece together the truth. But he also has to prepare for the upcoming talent show, keep an eye out for Dirty Alice—his archnemesis from down the street—and avoid eating Granny’s watery stew.
MY THOUGHTS: 3.5 OUT OF 5 FLEURS DE LIS
This is the story of a year in the life of Michael Murray, an 11 year old growing up in a tight knit neighborhood in Scotland. Mikey has a habit of listening in at doors and around corners when the grownups are discussing things a young boy shouldn’t hear about–and as a result he hears many secrets, and one in particular that is not only tearing his family apart, but will have an affect on the whole town.
While I truly enjoyed O’Donnell’s first novel, The Death of Bees Closed Doors didn’t quite resonate with me. The narrator, an 11 year old boy, is precocious and innocent, but at the same time is coming into his adolescence and experimenting with kissing girls and fighting. The most interesting aspect of this book is how the daily, inconsequential and innocent worries of a preteen boy are juxtaposed with the serious issues his family is dealing with.
I wouldn’t say Michael is not likable as a main character, but he is fickle and this irritated me a bit. He’s definitely not one of those literary kids that have been forced to act as if they are much older than they are, and in a way this is refreshing.
As for the writing style itself, I will bite the bullet and say that as an American reading a book by a Scottish author and set in Scotland, I had some difficulties with some of the words and phrases used. It’s English of course, but not American English. Not that this is a problem, just letting other readers know what to expect. I do love a book told from the point of view of a child, as this precludes the author from using much flowery language and a multitude of million dollar words. Mikey tells his story, simple and straightforward.
Closed Doors does bring up an important issue and without telling too much of the plot, I’ll just say I’m not entirely sure which side of the fence I sit on. Michael’s mom suffers something and while she tells her immediate family, she implores them not to tell anyone else, and keeping this secret has a massive effect on every person in the house. I can the mother’s side, but I did think she had a certain responsibility to not keep what happened a secret. I am not sure what I would have done in her situation.
If you enjoyed Lisa O’Donnell’s first novel, it’s worth giving this one a look too. Many of the elements from The Death of Bees are present in Closed Doors: child narrator, a violent secret, a town that’s too close for its’ own good. As for myself, I will keep my eye out for future books from this author.
About the Author
Lisa O’Donnell won the Orange Screenwriting Prize in 2000 for her screenplay The Wedding Gift. Her debut novel, The Death of Bees, was the winner of the 2013 Commonwealth Book Prize. She lives in Scotland.
Closed Doors is the startling new novel from Lisa O’Donnell. It is a vivid evocation of the fears and freedoms of childhood and a powerful tale of love, of the loss of innocence, and of the importance of family in difficult times.