Review: Closed Doors by Lisa O’Donnell

May 21, 2014 General Fiction, Harper Books, Review 5

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Harper (May 20, 2014)
  • ISBN-10: 006227189X
  • Source: Publisher

Eleven-year-old Michael Murray lives on a small Scottish island, a community so small that there are no secrets. His mother and grandmother are often found sitting at the kitchen table, gossiping about one person or another. Believing Michael too young to listen in, they banish him from the kitchen. Little do they know, he can often be found on the other side of the kitchen door, listening in.

When something devastating happens to his family, they attempt to protect him from knowing the truth.  Yet it isn’t after too many opportunities spent eavesdropping that Michael is able to uncover what really transpired. Questioning why his family has remained silent, even after others are affected, Michael is desperate to uncover the root of the event that has forever transformed his family.

Told by Michael’s point of view, readers experience this harrowing situation through his innocent, yet perceptive, eyes. That’s what makes this novel stand out, for it so honestly captures Michael’s interpretation of the actions that transpire to alter his family.  Intermixed with the main storyline are subplots involving Michael’s trials and tribulations as a prepubescent young man, including discovering and understanding the changes in his own body.

While the premise may lead you to believe this is a thriller, while it has some of the characteristics it is more of a coming of age, for we watch as Michael loses a bit of his own innocence in discovering the truth. At the beginning, he is quite naive but is slowly developed into an aware and cognizant young man. The pacing is slow, yet not drawn out, allowing readers to form a genuine connection with Michael and his family.

While it did take some time for me to become invested in Michael and his family, I ultimately found this book to be wholly rewarding and heartwarming. At its very core, it is an exploration of the value of love and family, despite of (and due to) harrowing and devastating situations. Recommended.

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for providing me the opportunity to review this title. Please be sure to check out the other stops along the way!


Lisa O’Donnell won the Orange Screenwriting Prize in 2000 for her screenplay The Wedding Gift. Her debut novel, The Death of Bees, was the winner of the 2013 Commonwealth Book Prize. She lives in Scotland.

Visit Lisa at her website, connect with her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.

5 Responses to “Review: Closed Doors by Lisa O’Donnell”

  1. Anita
    Twitter: anitalovesbooks

    The idea of eavesdropping to find out secrets is hot right now, I read CASEBOOK, and while I didn’t enjoy it, it was all about over hearing the things you almost wish you didn’t . This is the second or third good review I’ve seen of this one. Sounds well done. Not like i need more books…or do I? ha ha.

  2. Michelle Shannon

    I really enjoyed Michael and this book. His bewilderment at his family’s nonaction combined with his bewilderment at the changes in his body and his mind were endearing, I thought he may have been a bit too sheltered and his voice slightly too young, but I realize that some of that is also the pre-Internet era. Kids today do know more and are exposed to more negative stories than kids in the 80s. I thought the message the book gave about victims of such crimes was also very powerful. It was just a great book.

    • Jenn
      Twitter: jennbookshelves

      There were times when I completely lost track of Michael’s age. At times, he did seem younger than his actual age, other times quite the opposite. It was so interesting to read about something like this from a child’s point of view. It was heartbreaking for his innocence/outlook on life to be shattered after he finds out the truth. I wholeheartedly agree, a truly outstanding book.

  3. Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours
    Twitter: age30books

    It’s so hard to keep kids from hearing things they shouldn’t … poor Michael!

    Thanks for being a part of the tour Jenn. I’m featuring your review on TLC’s Facebook page today.