The Doll Funeral By Kate Hamer
Smarties Melting Into The Icing Like Drippings From Flies
The birthday cake was decorated with Smarties, that candies falling off the cake in the time that Ruby had run outside to her spot, hiding down in waist deep grass to keep her secured from Mick and Barbra, still inside the house.
Their words still stung her even though it was a moment of quiet rejoice. They had waited until Ruby's thirteenth birthday to announce that she wasn't their child, knowing already that they had lost their own daughter, Trudy at a young age. While the words gave her solace, they also stung and Ruby let her cake melt away as it was no time for celebration in Kate Hamer's The Doll Funeral.
Ruby shares the new with the Shadow Boy that sits on the steps as she passes, staring into his inky blackness that was like a shapeless abyss. The Shadow Boy says nothing of her plight.
While she had never fit in in her adoptive home, it was all Ruby had known finding out that she had been taken in when she was four months old. What was to be told of her mother and father, there was no answer.
Going to the garden with the books that she had cared for long since her childhood, Ruby made an offering in the ground with her book and then eventually some burned items of her adoptive father's clothing.
Realizing that she wasn't who she had previously thought she was, Ruby began to dress like the punk rockers she had seen on television, cutting up her well worn second hand clothing into artful masterpieces with the use of some creative sewing.
She would find her family and they would save her from what had taken place in this house that was not a home.
Ruby vowed that is Mick ever hit her again, she would leave the house and never come back. Everyone in the town seemed to hint at knowing about the reason she was out of school for days at a time or tugging down her sleeves to hide the bruises. The most recent beating though had done a number to her face keeping her out of school for a few days until the bruises had faded to a sickly yellow with her red birthmark glowing on her cheek.
The Sad Tale Of Anna
Anna was a young girl, too young in fact for the life that was about to be bestowed upon her.
Too frightened to ask the doctor for the pill wondering what the doctor would think as he saw her family in the church on Sunday, Anna instead had to find out from the doctor that she was indeed expecting. The doctor's only advice to the young girl, "Tell the father sooner than later."
Telling her mother first, Anna found some comfort. In the weeks that followed she set in motion a plan for the adoption of her baby when the time came.
The longer the pregnancy had gone on, Anna was no longer thinking about giving the baby up. When the father, a young man named Lewis had come to see her shortly after the birth she was already thinking of a way in which they would raise the child together.
Struggling through the infancy of their relationship, Anna and Lewis get married and carry on playing the charade of being parents each day. Anna is growing tired yet still determined to make things work with Ruby. She had considered giving up the child once and now she knew that she would never be able to do it again.
Fate though had already been set into motion and Anna last seen walking into the Forest Of Dean was suddenly missing.
In her own wanderings, Ruby had seen a woman in a yellow dress hanging upside down in a seat belt after an accident, not realizing that the woman was like that of the Shadow Boy that had hung around her since infancy.
Reporting the woman in the accident to the police, they never found signs of any such woman.
But Ruby had seen her there so clearly. Only to later come across the same dress hanging in the closet of her family's house.
Vowing to never let Mick hit her again, Ruby had enough and even though she had first objected to being sent away to stay with Mick's sister, Ruby had broken free to seek out siblings living in a shack in the woods not knowing this was already home to Ruby once.
Anna had suspected that her young husband had poisoned her as she lay awake in the hospital bed but she couldn't prove anything was a miss. She only wanted to see her baby. Where was Ruby? Who had taken Ruby away from her?
The Shadow Boy
He had been watching Ruby since she was a young girl. He had hated what he had seen happening to her, The Shadow Boy did not interfere.
Watching the final beating that had bruised Ruby's pretty face, The Shadow Boy was envious of her young perfect skin, even though it was purple and yellow in bruises like watercolor splotches.
He wanted nothing more than to be back inside flesh and be able to feel once again. Still The Shadow Boy did nothing to protect the only one that was able to see him all this time.
He stayed silent, watching and waiting. A silent witness to the rituals that Ruby had performed outside in a strange display of witchcraft in the waist tall grasses outside of the house.
The Shadow Boy seemed to know about the others that came around, perhaps he had known something about the woman in the yellow dress that was hanging upside down in the car. But if the Shadow Boy had anything to share, he didn't.
It was his job to be a silent observer.
He pitted what happened to Ruby, but it wasn't his job to be involved either.
The Man With The Green Car
After a month in the shack in the woods, Ruby had mailed a letter home to Barbara stating only that she had no intention of ever coming back after she had been made aware that Barbara was her biological aunt. It had never excused letting Mick beat on her.
Instead, Ruby had written that she knew about a young girl that Mick was cheating on her with, a school girl not much older than Ruby herself and that made her uneasy being around her discovered uncle.
In that month, Ruby had taken to living in the shack with a pair of siblings that had dwindled down to two after the death of one of the young boys. They had told Ruby about a man that comes around in a green car that had given them cause for concern and they had often hid when they had seen the car.
One day collecting firewood, Ruby had come into contact with the man and car and had no choice but to identify herself.
The man, Lewis, said nothing as he helped her with the heavy load.
Ruby knew nothing of what had made this chance meeting so unusual.
A Glittering Gem In A Cloud Of Confusion
Handed unfortunate events after being taken from a mother than vowed to never lose her again, Ruby had lived a tough life and was still trying to find her own way when The Doll Funeral lets off leaving it open for yet another installment in the series.
Admittedly not reading the first book as I was not aware of its connection to The Girl In The Red Coat, The Doll Funeral packs enough punch for someone unfamiliar with the story to take a liking.
While well written, there were sections of the book that seemed almost puzzling to their inclusion. The early sections about The Shadow Boy and Ruby's rituals in the forest gave a supernatural lean, but we never really saw the ability to know of ghosts blossom into anything usable in the book and seemed just an easy vehicle to have Ruby see Anna hanging in the car.
I liked the tension of the home life Ruby had lived with Mick and Barbra but there was no pay off and that whole end of the story was pushed to the side once she was on her own.
I'm not sure if there was something that I missed out on in my reading, but the story seemed really disjointed as it tried to move from plot point to plot point.
The Doll Funeral isn't a bad read, but it was a little too hard to follow where it wanted to take you when the substance wasn't there. What would have done better is an entire book about the upbringing and maybe a second book all devoted to her life with the siblings rather than stuffing into into a measly second half of a book that is only near three hundred pages.
Given more pages to work with, the story could have been better flushed out.
The flashbacks with Anna were very well done as well but they took away the power from what was going on in present day and I would have rather had read a book from Anna's perspective. I feel after three hundred pages I don't really know Ruby as a character and this is a failing of Kate Humer to deliver a character that felt like a real person at the end of a second novel in a series.