The Girl with Stars in Her Eyes by Eleanor O’Kelly-Lynch | Book Reviews | General Fiction
The Girl with Stars in Her Eyes by Eleanor O’Kelly-Lynch

By Mairéad Hearne (Swirl and Thread)

The Girl with Stars in Her Eyes by Eleanor O’Kelly-Lynch

The Girl with Stars in Her Eyes by Eleanor O’Kelly-Lynch is the second book following the lives of Doll Redmond and her family. It is described as ‘a life-affirming story about the fragility of family relationships, about love and hope and about how, when the heart dreams deeply, magic happens.’

The Girl with Special Knees introduced the reader to the Redmond family, in particular to Doll Redmond who is a child with a debilitating condition. Doll escapes to the parallel world of Almazova, a place where her disabilities vanish and she becomes the hero of her own story. But Almazova isn’t home for Doll and when her adventures finish she returns to her non-verbal and incapacitated state back in her family home in Cork. Doll lives with Sally, her mother, Dan, her father and Andi, her older sister. Her brother Will lives in Africa. When Doll received a special magical doll, Nan-Nan, her eyes were opened to an extraordinary world. With Nan-Nan’s help, Doll’s life temporarily changed, but while Doll was off on her travels through space, her family were left struggling to cope.

In The Girl with Stars in Her Eyes, Doll is twelve years old. She is about to make her First Communion, but feels terribly embarrassed by her condition and her dependence on everyone around her. She recalls Almazova and wishes for a chance to return there once more. When Nan-Nan makes an appearance, Doll is excited to see her and, with a new mission to fulfil, Doll is ecstatic.

‘Nan-Nan stretches her arms wide. Her lips move, and she’s whisper-chanting words I can’t make out. It’s like she’s in a trance, somewhere else entirely. I know there’s a rigmarole to go through before we sail out of here. She looks at me. Puts her fingers to her lips. “Ready, Doll?” she says in a hushed voice”’

As Doll explores Almazova and experiences the challenges and adventures that await her there, Sally, Dan and Andi are in Cork dealing with a crisis. Andi is the glass child of the family, always feeling invisible, almost see-through. Her boyfriend, Steve, garners no respect from her family, especially her father, leaving Andi saddened. Steve is from a different part of the town from a working class estate. He lives with his grandmother, as his mother is an addict who now lives in the UK and is trying to rebuild her life. Steve has dreams and ambitions. While Andi is still in school, Steve is training as a mechanic. He loves Andi yet her father wants him out of Andi’s life. Will love conquer all?

‘Steve gets me, he adores me. We have something special, that’s what I’m trying to say. People say he’s trouble, but that’s just first impressions. Deep down he’s sweet and kind. I’m his princess. His words, not mine.’

Meanwhile Sally and Dan’s relationship is in a very fragile state. The pressure of parenting and the sense of hopelessness that always remains close has come between them. For years they’ve muddled along but now with Andi entangled with Steve and with Doll’s condition unstable, there is little energy left for Sally and Dan to communicate and be open with each other. Sally is convinced that Dan is up to something behind her back and her imagination is in overdrive conjuring up all sorts of scenarios. Can Dan and Sally’s marriage survive? Have they the strength to overcome the mounting obstacles that are popping up daily in front of them?

‘Sally knows something. The way she wouldn’t meet my eye. And not just this evening, she’s been in odd form for the last few weeks. She’s concerned about Doll – and I don’t blame her for that – but there’s something else. Something she’s not saying.’

While Dan, Sally and Andi battle through their days, Doll continues her exploits in Almazova, facing her own difficulties, as she treads carefully to uncover a sinister plot at a school for high-achievers. Doll is courageous and ready for every new day in Almazova. It is the only place that the inner Doll is on display, with her strength and bravery obvious to all. At home in Cork, Doll can’t communicate, but in her head, her thoughts are crystal clear. This clarity of thought and the ability to verbally express her opinions in Almazova is incredible to Doll and she intends to make use of every single second. She knows her family loves her dearly but for Doll, life is Almazova is one she could never have if she returns home.

‘If I go back, I’ll just be climbing out of my pit, falling back, climbing out, sliding back, climbing and falling all the days of my life.’

As I mentioned in my previous review of The Girl with Special Knees, it is very difficult to place these books into any specific genre. Eleanor O’Kelly-Lynch has a story to tell that is inspired by her own life but these books are certainly not an account of her own life. Eleanor’s daughter was born with special needs and her disabilities activated an idea that started to germinate in Eleanor’s mind. Imagine another universe where a child with a debilitating condition could escape to and live an extraordinary life beyond the confines of their ill-health and restrictions. Doll Redmond and her family all play important roles in these books. Interspersed with Doll’s adventures are the trials and tribulations of a family struggling to stay afloat. The two worlds are poles apart with Doll the thread linking them together. Each book immerses the reader deep into the lives of the Redmond’s as the characters become more familiar and we get more insights into the adversities they face.

The Girl with Stars in Her Eyes by Eleanor O’Kelly-LynchThe Girl with Stars in Her Eyes is another charming addition to this series. These books definitely have a fairy-tale vibe, whereby another world is accessed via a magic portal. In addition to this there is the parallel story of a regular family struggling to survive. Each book can be read as a standalone, but I would recommend that they be read in order, so that you get a true flavour of Doll and the Redmond family. With a cast of charismatic characters, The Girl with Stars in Her Eyes is a compassionate, mystical tale while at the same time dealing very sensitively with matters of the heart and mind.

(c) Mairéad Hearne (Swirl and Thread)

Order your copy online here.

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