Title: Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All
Author: Laura Ruby
Genre: Magic Realism, YA.
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication date: October 1 2019
Hardcover: 384 pages
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.
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
How did I get this book: Review copy from publisher
Format (e- or p-): ebook
“Sorry, sorrier, sorriest.”
The story of: a memoryless ghost girl who herself tells us the story of another girl, Frankie. Frankie was left by her father at a religious orphanage in Chicago with her brother and sister, after the death of their mother.
The story of: a country and its immigrants, its problems with class and institutionalised discrimination, all against the backdrop of a looming World War II in a country recently emerged from a Great Depression.
A story of: poverty, growing up and above all, a story about girls and women and the powerful forces that rise against them, holding them back.
There are doors and when girls open them, they are always the wrong doors. Behind them, wolves.
But who are the wolves?
It being a Laura Ruby novel, there is clearly only one answer to this question.
“Why does the world demand girls be beautiful, but when they are, punish them for it? Why does it punish girls either way?”
In a story that has elements of Fantasy and magical realism in it, the ghost has her own afterlife – she has friends and she has developing powers but always she makes her way back to the same people. A young married woman and her husband. A library. And the orphanage where Frankie lives with her brother and her sister, waiting for their father to come back for them one day.
This story, Frankie’s, has nothing magical about it, it is actually based on the true story of the author’s mother-in-law.
The ghost mostly observes, because this story is the story of the living – her story is already told. She died years before of the flu, she knows this. She looks at Frankie, and tenderly takes care of her and they are so different and yet so similar, two girls wanting more and being denied that want. The ghost’s mother still talks to her in her head, Frankie has the voice of the nuns and of the whole world holding her back.
For Frankie, a life in the orphanage has its ups and downs though. She has friends, a life and a safe place in many ways. She has a routine. If she leaves, when she leaves, how can she even interact with the world? Is she prepared for that? More to the point, is the world ready for a girl like Frankie?
The ghost goes on, some of the dead never rest. Why does she linger? Does she have something to do? She starts to remember her own story little by little. She knows she loved a boy, a boy her family didn’t like. And there was a horrid man too, somewhere in her memories. The more she remembers, the more fragments fall into place, the bigger the puzzle, the bigger the life, the bigger the lies. The two girls are connected through a fragile chain of story, of want, of growth as well as betrayal, tragedy and sadness. It ends with a beauty beyond wildest dreams.
“Why does the world want girls to be sorry, some even more than others? Sorry, sorrier, sorriest.”
In an out of the orphanage, they howl. We listen.
Rating: 8 – Excellent