Tuesday, June 3, 2014

CLOSED DOORS by Lisa O'Donnell

Lisa O’Donnell’s debut novel, The Death Of Bees, garnered accolades and the Commonwealth Book Prize.  She won the Orange Screenwriting Prize for her screenplay, The Wedding Gift.  Yes, she’s a prize winner, alright, as we see once again in Closed Doors, a touching, insightful coming of age story set in Rothesy, a small town on the West Coast of Scotland.  It is a place where gossip is rife and “Everyone knows who you are and always will.  It’s a blessing but also a curse.”

Unfortunately, for 11-year-old Michael Murray it seems to be more of a curse.  He lives with his parents and grandmother during the years of Thatcher.  Dad is out of work but fortunately has a bit of family money he can dip into, and something dreadful, so awful that it is unspeakable happens to Michael’s mother, Rosemary.   Michael is told that she has been accosted by a flasher in the park and was injured while running away from him.

Initially Michael accepts that explanation but is puzzled by the change in his mother - her depression, shutting herself off.  In addition, there is his father’s growing anger about the flasher and the growing arguments between his parents.  He begins to listen at doors to try to understand what his parents are fighting about.  There are words that he doesn’t understand and knows he’ll probably get a cuff about the head if he asks what they mean so he turns to the dictionary hoping for some answers.

O’Donnell leavens the unhappiness in the Murray house with lighthearted descriptions of Michael and his friends at play.  While he is but a boy struggling to understand what is happening in his life Michael’s insights and thoughts ring true.  The author has skillfully created a story woven of humor, violence and above all love as seen through the eyes of a child.  Quite simply, Closed Doors is unforgettable.

- Gail Cooke

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