This review originally appeared in Shelf Awareness for Readers and is reprinted here with permission.
Lisa O’Donnell follows up her award-winning The Death of Bees with Closed Doors, another novel featuring a young narrator. Michael Murray, age 11, lives on the Scottish island of Rothesay and likes to listen behind doors because adults don’t tell him everything. One night, he hears his mom screaming downstairs, and when he runs to find her, he sees her face is bloodied.
His father and grandmother tell him Rosemary saw a flasher while walking home from work in the dark and she fell running away from him. Michael believes the story, but is not allowed to tell anyone about the flasher. When his mother refuses to go to the police or discuss what happened, people in the small town start whispering ugly rumors about Michael’s father, reaching their own conclusions about Rosemary’s facial bruises. Michael is torn between his promise to keep the family secret and the need to defend his father’s honor, especially with Dirty Alice, the neighborhood girl he hates.
O’Donnell deftly writes from the boy’s point of view; Michael’s observations are realistic and often laugh-out-loud funny. Confused when Dirty Alice suddenly bursts into tears at one point, he thinks, “I’ve heard her cry before but only after a fall or that time I threw a rock at her head.” The levity balances out the darker elements, and Michael’s innocence spares readers the full horror of “the flasher’s” deeds. Michael loses some of that innocence over the course of the story but remains an engaging narrator to the end.
Nerd verdict: Engaging Doors