Although I read a great deal of crime fiction, very few of the novels have touched on the post captivity lives of those who have been abducted and I was interested to see how Baby Doll would approach this. Baby Doll is the story of twin Lily Riser, one minute a happy-go-lucky sixteen-year-old with a heartthrob boyfriend and bright future, the next snatched from the streets by a high school teacher that is trusted by her family and a well respected and married member of the community. For eight years, Lily has been held captive by English teacher, Rick Hanson. For the entire time he has beaten, sexually and mentally abused her and the only glimmer of light for Lily has been her precious six-year-old daughter, Sky, a child whose entire life up until now has been spent in captivity. But one day, Rick gets careless and forgets to latch the dead bolt on the door. Daring to believe it isn't another of his sadistic tricks designed to 'test' her, Lily flees and returns to the home she adored. Baby Doll is the story of how the future plays out for Lily, her mother, Eve, twin sister, Abby and abductor, Rick Hanson. Written in the third person, this was a story I enjoyed despite feeling that much of the plot was a little trivialised.
Yet, nothing is ever the same as the memory and the clock simply can't be turned back. Suddenly the joy of release and the reuniting of a family is tarnished by the news that Lily's father has passed on, her mother is sleeping around and her twin sister Abby's life has been marred by drink and drug addictions and she is now pregnant with the child of Lily's first love, Wes. Lily realises that perhaps it would have been better for everyone if she had never found her way home as her kidnap has taken its toll on her entire family. Is it possible for Lily to reintegrate with her family and assimilate into a home and society she left nearly a decade ago?
Lily was portrayed as relatively fearless after making her escape, whereas I thought being beaten and tormented for her entire time in captivity would have left her a shadow of herself, cowed and diminished by constantly being told she was worthless. I was a little dismayed at how 'normal' Lily was; mature and relatively forgiving whereas her twin sister, Abby, was the opposite. Although I appreciated seeing the situation approached from all angles my main frustration was that little depth was ever broached and emotions were glossed over. There was something of Baby Doll that it resembled a made for TV American weepy biopic with a little too much creative licence exercised. At less than three-hundred-pages, there was never enough meat put on the bones of any of the characters and I felt like drama of Abby's problems was a little over the top.
Still, despite my criticism, Baby Doll proved a highly readable and enjoyable book. I suspect it is very unlikely that Lily and her family would have been allowed to leave the protective custody of the FBI agents so easily, something which solid research would have improved. I am also unsure whether a fictionalised novel can ever do justice to cataloging the nightmare of life as a long-term captive, but perhaps concentrating on a single character would have proved a more compelling read.