Friday, June 1, 2018

Baby Doll by Hollie Overton

Reviewed by Brenda G.

Overton, Hollie. Baby Doll. New York; Redhook Books, 2017. 405 pages.

            If this book were a weekly television show, the lead-in would boldly proclaim, “Ripped from the headlines.” It is instead a novel, a first effort by a now twice-published author.  This first effort, published in 2016, was well-received, proclaimed “international bestseller’ on the front cover of the paperback edition I read. The real life escape and rescue of Ariel Castro’s kidnapping victims in Ohio in 2013 perhaps lent credence to this story.

            The book begins with Lily, the “Baby Doll” realizing her high school English teacher and captor Rick has failed to use the deadbolt on the door that granted access to her basement prison, a place where she has dwelt for 10 years and borne a child, {thus providing another parallel to Castro’s hostage Amanda Berry.) Lily knows exactly how long she has been away; she counted every day, hour, and minute. At first fearful the unlocked door is one of Rick’s tests, Lily decides to take the risk; Rick does not make mistakes. She steps outside to a snow-covered world. She and her daughter Sky do not have adequate clothing or shoes, so Lily wraps herself and Sky in as much clothing as she can find, wraps her daughter in a blanket, and for the first time in 10 years, begins to run.

            The book now explores the aftermath of Lily’s escape and recovery and the author throws in various unexpected complications. What has happened in the lives of Lily’s family during the 10 years she was away? Her mother? Her father, whom she loved dearly? Her twin sister Abby, burdened with guilt because she left Lily at school that fateful day due to a minor dispute; what has happened in her life? Her boyfriend Wes - is he still around? What has happened in Rick’s life out in the world? Rick is a respected member of the community. What if no one believes her?

            I did read the book twice from beginning to end. It is well-written, though not every detail is as I would want it to be in a perfect world. The characters are flawed, as we all are, and sometimes make decisions difficult to accept. A true surprise at the end brings some resolution to what could have been an ongoing problem in the characters’ lives, yet the solution creates other problems. Life. I also occasionally became impatient with the author’s style, similar to that of several authors I often read when younger but do not read now.

            Obviously, the book is intense and highly emotional. It leads the reader to consider what strengths would be needed to fight one’s way back to everyday life after such experiences. In two books, Michelle Knight, one of Castro’s victims, who is now known as Lily Rose Lee, attempts to answer that question. Knight’s books are titled Finding Me: A Decade of Darkness, A Life Reclaimed (Hatchette, 2015) and Life After Darkness: Finding Healing and Happiness After the Cleveland Kidnappings (Hatchette, 2018.)  In addition, Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus, Castro’s other victims, wrote Hope: A Memoir of Survival in Cleveland (Penguin, 2016.) These books may help to answer reader question.

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