Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Closed Doors

Source: goodreads.com
Closed Doors, by Lisa O'Donnell
Publisher: Harper
Publication date: May 20, 2014
Category: Fiction
Source: I received this e-galley via Edelweiss in exchange for my honest review.

I ended up sticking to one author, Lisa O'Donnell, for most of Bout of Books last week. I read The Death of Bees first (review here), so I expected something quite similar going into her new book, Closed Doors. However, I didn't find them very much alike.

Michael Murray, the eleven-year-old narrator, gives the reader all of his thoughts, all of the time. It was akin to listening to a mini version of Holden Caulfield from The Catcher in the Rye, minus most of the swearing. Take heart, unlike Holden, Michael is not in the least bit annoying. His age explains much of what he thinks, says, and does. (Sorry Caulfield fans...I just reread Catcher with my students, so Holden's gonna take a fall here.)

Instead of running away from all of his problems (*cough* Holden *cough*), Michael attempts to figure out and deal with the problems that begin plaguing his house one late night. Being eleven, none of the adults in his family make it easy for him, thinking him too young to handle anything remotely adult. So Michael does what any kid might do, he begins listening behind closed doors. Without the understanding of an adult, Michael begins to piece together what he hears, eventually telling the story of his mother's new sadness and his father's anger.

What I like about Michael (and makes me even more annoyed with Holden Caulfield) is that he isn't just dealing with this one problematic aspect within his family. He is also juggling school, friends, and girls. All parts of his life soon become tied to his family's problem and still the little bugger chugs along.

Any sense of suspense (and perhaps his ability to move along) comes from the fact that the narrator is too young to completely understand what is happening around him. Michael is not yet world-wise and so the reader is continually doing his/her own piecing together based on a broader knowledge of the world in which we live, as well as watching Michael come into his own.

In the end, the metaphorical closed doors of his family's sadness give Michael what he has wanted the whole time. Closed Doors is different than The Death of Bees, and just as enjoyable.

Anyone hear any juicy secrets while hiding behind closed doors?

19 comments:

  1. I love the concept of a narrator listening to other people through closed doors. It's a good way to go as creating a book written in the first person from a child's perspective is so tricky I think - felt this way reading and blogging about the novel The Bear recently. I haven't read Catcher in the Rye since I was a teen and I worry I'd find him frustrating/annoying now.

    I was at a conference for work once and staying in a hotel room where I could hear people talking about my company through the wall. So fascinating (and fun) to hear what people think when they don't think they are being listened to!

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    1. I've heard it said that of you read Catcher before age 21 you see Holden one way and after 21 you see him another. I didn't read it until I was on my second degree, had three kids, and a full time job...and I wasn't quite 27 yet, so I was a bit annoyed with him. Now that I've taught it a couple years,move really looked into his character deeper and I can sympathize a little more.

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  2. The topic of this book just sounded too depressing to me and I'm suddenly curious if that has anything to do with the realistic cover image because The Death of Bees also deals with tough issues and is even by the same author, but it appealed to me a lot more with its beautiful, illustrated cover.

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    1. I know what you mean. The covers are misleading now that I've read them both. The Death of Bees felt much more serious to me (maybe because of the narrator), yet the cover didn't so much. Closed Doors's cover looks spooky almost, but it really isn't spooky at all. Although the topic is serious, you feel removed from of it because of the narrator's young age. Very much like a Room and the five year old narrator, of you've read that.

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  3. I haven't actually heard anything about this book but it does sound interesting. I have a thing about books being narrated by children - I really enjoy them. I saw you mentioned Room in the comments above, so perhaps you find books narrated by children interesting? If you do, I'd recommend The Night Rainbow. A really great read, and quite short too. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this one.

    Also, I saw in the sidebar that you're currently reading The Storyteller - I look forward to hearing your thoughts on that one.

    :-)
    Bits & Bobs

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    1. Books narrated by children change the tone and mood so much. Room would have been terrifying to me if written by a much older child or adult, because he or she would know what as going on was wrong, etc. But from a kid who sees his situation as normal and isn't really being hurt as far as he knows, it wasn't nearly as terrifying to read. Child narrators are like seeing the world through a different lens.

      I am almost done with The Storyteller - there are no words, but I'll put up something!

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  4. I am cracking up at your comparison to Holden Caulfield.

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    1. Poor Lisa O'Donnell...I hope she knows I just had Caulfield on the brain cause my students and I have been disecting him for three weeks! Michael in Closed Doors is a much stronger person!

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    1. Thanks! I checked out your blog, but I only speak and read English.

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  6. Sounds like an interesting book... and I like what you said in the comment about reading Catcher before or after age 21. I read it before 21 and thought everything about it was wonderful. I think I'm going to give it another read soon. :)

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    1. I would love to see of your opinion of him changes with a reread. Of course, many times feelings on a book can stay the same from sentimentality.

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  7. I too, love your comments about Holden Caulfield. I don't remember when I first read Catcher, but I must have been older because I remember finding him profoundly irritating. :)

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    1. Yep - even rereads that help me understand him better cannot explain away all of his irritating nuances!

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  8. I really enjoyed this one. I loved The Death of Bees and just raced through Closed Doors! So so good!

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    1. Agreed. It was an easy read and not typical in the fact that the narrator added a different dimension.

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  9. I think I need to give The Death of Bees a read!

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    1. I think I like Death of Bees better.

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