Wednesday, December 4, 2019

REVIEW: Thirteen Doorways Wolves Behind Them All by Laura Ruby

Title: Thirteen Doorways Wolves Behind Them All
Author: Laura Ruby
Genre: Young Adult - Paranormal/Historical
Publisher: Balzer & Bray
Release Date: October 1, 2019
Acquired: Library borrow
Goodreads: ADD

The unforgettable story of two young women—one living, one dead—dealing with loss, desire, and the fragility of the American dream during WWII.

When Frankie’s mother died and her father left her and her siblings at an orphanage in Chicago, it was supposed to be only temporary—just long enough for him to get back on his feet and be able to provide for them once again. That’s why Frankie's not prepared for the day that he arrives for his weekend visit with a new woman on his arm and out-of-state train tickets in his pocket.

Now Frankie and her sister, Toni, are abandoned alongside so many other orphans—two young, unwanted women doing everything they can to survive.

And as the embers of the Great Depression are kindled into the fires of World War II, and the shadows of injustice, poverty, and death walk the streets in broad daylight, it will be up to Frankie to find something worth holding on to in the ruins of this shattered America—every minute of every day spent wondering if the life she's able to carve out will be enough.

I will admit I do not know the answer. But I will be watching, waiting to find out.

That’s what ghosts do.

I have a specific weakness for stories narrated by the dead. It feels so inclusive and deliciously secretive, so unceasingly mysterious. How did they die? Will we get to find out? If so, dear God WHEN !? Thirteen Doorways Wolves Behind Them All is a National Book Awards finalist, which for all intents and purposes means that it's been deemed worthy of high praise, of a truly fantastically executed plot. Ruby writes with a master hand, so beautifully descriptive and full of genuine yearning, unfortunately, the mixture of two plot lines in this one muddled the experience a little too much for me.

An unknown spirit opens this tale. We enter her world as she's moving through the orphanage of our second main character, Frankie. Abandoned by her father for his newfound family, Frankie, along with her younger sister and older brother, are left in the care of nuns who are sometimes prone to care giving, but are most times harsh and confusingly abusive. In getting to know Frankie, we also get to learn more about the narrator as she floats through a pre, and then present, WWI Chicago. With war as the background, and other unspeakable griefs as the foreground, Thirteen Doorways Wolves Behind Them All is at once a story about love, and loss, and the pain that can be found in the most obvious places, and the places no one cares to check.

I'm in the camp that would have preferred the main storyline to revolve around the deceased narrator. She felt more fleshed-out (pun intended), than her living counterparts, her story more deserving of emotional investment. Even remembering it now is splitting my heart in two. But the writing, OH the writing, it was the saving grace that kept me reading about Frankie's plights, despite my eyes glazing over a few times. 

Ruby's writing deserves to be read regardless, so I will definitely be reading the rest of her work.

Trigger Warnings:
Physical and verbal abuse

Read if you like:  
Far Far Away by Tom McNeal
The Magic String of Frankie Presto by Mitch Albom

Key themes: 
death, loss, abandonment, racism, injustice, war (not directly) 


 A National Book Award Finalist, Laura Ruby writes fiction for adults, teens and children. She is the author of the Printz Medal Winning novel BONE GAP, as well as the forthcoming novel THIRTEEN DOORWAYS, WOLVES BEHIND THEM ALL. Other works include the Edgar-nominated children's mystery LILY'S GHOSTS, the ALA Quick Pick for teens GOOD GIRLS (2006), a collection of interconnected short stories about blended families for adults, I'M NOT JULIA ROBERTS (2007), and the YORK trilogy. She is on the faculty of Hamline University's Masters in Writing for Children Program. She makes her home in the Chicago area.

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