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Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  5,058 ratings  ·  966 reviews
The unforgettable story of two young women—one living, one dead—dealing with loss, desire, and the fragility of the American dream during WWII.

When Frankie’s mother died and her father left her and her siblings at an orphanage in Chicago, it was supposed to be only temporary—just long enough for him to get back on his feet and be able to provide for them once again. That’s
Hardcover, 358 pages
Published October 1st 2019 by Balzer + Bray
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1D731B Yes, several characters are ghosts, and the story of Frankie is told through the observations of a ghost that haunts the orphanage she grows up in it.…moreYes, several characters are ghosts, and the story of Frankie is told through the observations of a ghost that haunts the orphanage she grows up in it. This is a really awesome book btw, I mostly complain on here and it's one of my few 5 star ratings.(less)

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Average rating 3.88  · 
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 ·  5,058 ratings  ·  966 reviews

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The more I read this novel, the more I grew disenchanted by it. It’s the kind of book that tries to tackle many things, but ends up failing at giving justice to all of them. It opened with a ghost narrating a story of Frankie, a girl abandoned by her father in pre-WWII Chicago orphanage. Life there was rough, nuns were cruel, etc. This part I really liked and if the book stayed with Frankie, I would have liked the story much more. But Frankie’s story got diluted by the ghost drama, detours into ...more
Erin Entrada Kelly
Let’s talk about how good this book is. The writing is gorgeous, the story compelling. Our narrator is a GHOST telling the story of an orphan—but also revealing her own tragic story in the process.

But the book is about more than that. It’s about what it means to be a woman, then and now. It’s about the secrets we are forced to keep and the ones we impose on ourselves. It’s about forgiveness and justice. It’s about survival and loneliness.

Beautifully written and wonderfully told. XO
I haven't been blown away by a lot of YA this year -- it's been fine, but not spectacular.

This was, however, spectacular. Smart and savvy and clever and creative and powerful. A ghost story wrapped in a story of an orphan during World War II Chicago, this is a story about all of the doors hiding wolves girls have to face in the world. The wolves are all different, but all the same. It's also a story of love, of passion, of human connection.

Beautifully written and lush and evocative.

More soon.
Oct 27, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I finished this yesterday and have been wavering on how I want to rate it. It was a good look at the treatment of young women and girls in turn of the century America as well as the racism at that time. I’m not sure I understood the point of the ghost narrator other than to further emphasize the struggles women faced during this time period. Those two parallel story lines were more distracting for me, however, and I would have preferred a story that focused on one or the other.
Jul 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The story of two girls: one living, one dead, separated by class and time but both struggling with what it means to be a woman in this world and what it means to be human and alive. Both are punished for their sexuality and suffer violence at the hands of those who should have kept them safe, but both have rebellious streaks and push back against the forces that limit their power. It's the story of unwanted girls mistreated girls abandoned girls who refuse to accept their fate and who know in th ...more
Oct 30, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Frankie, her sister Toni and her brother Vito are all living in a Chicago orphanage run by nuns in the last years of the Great Depression and through WWII. We follow Frankie's story as she grows up and out of the orphanage and as she's observed by the ghost of a girl who died from the Spanish Flu in 1918.

The hardship that Frankie has to endure, first with the nuns, and then with America on a war footing, not to mention a father who's neglectful at best and abusive at worst, makes for a compellin
Frequently heartbreaking, this excellent story by Laura Ruby left me both wrecked and hopeful. I loved this story of Frankie. She, older brother Vito and younger sister Toni are left by their father in an orphanage upon the scandalous death of their mother. There, though it was not a particularly loving environment, Frankie, Vito and Toni had their friends and routines. Then their father takes Vito out of the orphanage with him after remarrying, leaving Frankie and Toni behind.
There's also a gh
Shannon (It Starts At Midnight)
You can find the full review and all the fancy and/or randomness that accompanies it at It Starts at Midnight

Thirteen Doorways is such a genuinely gorgeous book, I hardly know where to begin. Look, it's gut-wrenching, let's get that out of the way. I mean, it's orphans during WWII, you're probably not expecting sunshine and roses, right? The thing is, as hard as it is at times to read, there is a really inspirational aspect to it as well. It left me hopeful, that maybe humanity isn't doomed. Ou
Nov 17, 2019 rated it liked it
I've liked the other books Laura Ruby has written (Bone Gap, York series), but this one not so much. This is a coming of age story about an adolescent girl growing up in an orphanage in Chicago during World War II. Frankie, her brother and sister are abandoned by their father after the death of her mother, as he marries another woman with her own family. There is an interwoven ghost story, some themes of adolescent love, war, abuse by the nuns, and discrimination against women. Basically, too ma ...more
Stunning and strange, at once luscious and harsh, with the contrast of the narrator's descriptions of ghosts in rich gowns with long flowing hair and the orphans she is drawn to with their rough plain dresses and cropped locks. This is a story about love, and identity, about family, and friendships. An unexpected story, sad and glorious. I hate to go into detail, because I don't want to spoil anything. But if you, like me, read and loved Bone Gap, read this immediately. ...more
Jul 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
One day, a package arrived in the mail for me from Amazon Prime. I don't have a Prime account, so I thought my sister sent me a package because she'd told me there was another book she wanted us to read together. Sure enough, it was a book, but when I texted my sister, she told me she hadn't sent me anything. I checked my orders, but I hadn't ordered anything or been charged with anything by mistake. I wasn't sure what to do--did I keep the book or send it back? It came in my name. I thought may ...more
laura  morgan
May 15, 2022 rated it it was ok
This is told from the POV of a ghost and it follows Frankie, abandoned and left in an orphanage by her father during WWII in Chicago. I went into this expecting an emotional historical with a paranormal element. And I really liked the setting and learning about the girls' lives were like in the orphanage. I was also intrigued by the ghost, who she was, and how she came to be stuck wondering around. There were also moments where I was like wow, this writing is beautiful.

Somewhere around the half
Jessica Woodbury
This book is beautiful and sad, full of surrealism and yet fully grounded in real life. I will often say things like, "I don't need any more WWII historical fiction," but books like this remind me that I just need books that take their period seriously, that open it up to you and make it feel absolutely real. I enjoyed BONE GAP but I liked THIRTEEN DOORWAYS even more.

The ghost-as-narrator device still isn't used all that often, which I think is for the best. If you're going to use it you need to
Sep 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Even if you didn't like Bone Gap, I am absolutely begging you to give Thirteen Doorways a try.

Granted, I loved Bone Gap, but I recognize the magical-realism-lite vibe isn't for everyone. This book is similarly dreamy and beautiful, but it's grounded in real stories and histories. Every character is vibrant and full, and while I'm not normally a huge fan of YA historical fiction, particularly WWII, the perspective is fresh and unique. I absolutely adored this. It's gorgeously written and full of
Anna Bright
Oct 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: paranormal, ya
this one’s a finalist for the National Book Award, and for good reason. Frankie’s father leaves her and her sister, Toni, at an orphanage to be sure they’ll be cared for. but then he shows up one day, and he’s married, and he’s leaving town—without them. Frankie and Toni are alone in the world with their friends and the ghosts that watch over one. this one gave me chills all over my entire body. I highly recommend.
Kate Olson
This book blew me away because it did the previously unthinkable ~ it made me love a story narrated by a GHOST. Excellent and original historical fiction with multiple storylines based on the author’s MIL’s real childhood. Well, real childhood plus ghosts 😉
‘Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All’ is one of my favorite book titles ever. The story follows to sisters left behind in a Catholic orphanage during the WWII. I was sold by the idea that the novel represented the many doors women attempt to open, full of hopes and dreams, only to find wolves behind them.

BUT, as you may guess from the rating, this did not do it for me. I started reading this without checking the synopsis and maybe that impacted my reading experience? I’m not sure. The narr
Samm | Sassenach the Book Wizard
I don't know if it's my tastes or the content being published more now but I've been reading SO many books in the past year involving religious institutions that are actually pretty analytical of them. Some more than others but still a pretty interesting shift.

The switching of POVs between our alive character and our dead character didn't totally work for me all the time. They were going through a lot of similar things but I didn't find their voices to be all that different from each other. At t
Jun 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When I wasn’t reading this, I was thinking about it, it’s that good. I love a good historical fiction (which this was!), but when you throw ghosts into it I’m SOLD. 10/10 WOULD RECOMMEND!

I cared about every character — I was angry, sad, elated for them. I cried and laughed and grinned, and at times was thoroughly creeped out (which I love!). Frankie is such a beautifully nuanced character, and I loved her wittiness and humor. I wanted to shake Toni at times, and I cannot tell you how deeply I f
I had to think hard about whether to tag this YA, because it didn't feel particularly YA-y to me, so I didn't. One reason for that is that it felt to me that it had a very slow start, with my interest only starting to pick up around page 100, more than 1/4 in the book. For the first 100 pages, there was plenty of atmosphere, and things happened, and things were recalled, but neither of the two main characters seemed to have much of a goal. The teen ghost narrator seemed to just kind of float aro ...more
Jun 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sirens-2020
It's not a perfect book but I can't remember ever really getting impatient with it or wanting to put the book down so I don't have a reason not to rate it a 5!

This book is a ghost story when it comes right down to it. Our narrator is named Pearl, and she's the ghost telling the story. Pearl flits around 1940's Chicago but is repeatedly drawn to several places in particular. The lake, a little wooden house with a happy young couple, and an orphanage. Pearl watches.Sometimes she tries to get peopl
Lowering to 2.5 Stars! I finished this a week ago, and don't remember ANYTHING about this book. I also struggled while reading this and almost DNF, so I have to bring this rating down.


3.5 Stars!

*This is probably the most beautifully written 3.5 star rated book I have read. I enjoyed parts of this book so much, but I think I need to read it again to really appreciate the writing, symbolism, and themes in this book.

This book is so unique and very hard to d
Nov 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: giveaways, 2019-read
I won an ARC of this book in a Goodreads giveaway. Historical fiction isn't a genre I gravitate toward, but something about this story had me interested enough to enter to win a copy.

It was fantastic. This is a story about girls, about loss, about love, about trauma, and about life. The balance between the two protagonists, whose stories are carefully interwoven and mirror each other in a lot of ways, is exceptional. The relationships feel real and complicated without being lost in the message
Many thanks to EdelweissPlus and the publisher for providing me with a DRC of this title to review. All opinions are my own.

If you had asked me at about 10% into this book if I was going to keep going, or even what I thought of it in general, I would have told you it was DANGEROUSLY close to being in my small DNF pile. The only thing that kept me going were: a. the author (I LOVED Bone Gap ), b. other reviews who mentioned a similar struggle getting going, and c. the buzz surrounding this book a
Tina Hoggatt
This book casts a spell that stays long after the last story page and the author's note have been read. A ghost story and an historical novel, a meditation on how our lives are lived over the lives of those who have gone before us, about the endurance of prejudice and oppression, the triumph of love and self-love, the slipperiness of memory, the rock of truth. This story that takes place during WWII and in the decades leading up to it about two sisters rejected by their father and growing up in ...more
Oct 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I finished this minutes ago and I need to write down how it made me feel. At first I held this book and tried to sleep but I couldn't, so here I am.

This book is ferociously beautiful, a supernova explosion of the most gorgeous, compelling, fierce writing - ever, in my memory of reading. It's a well-written work that hadn't particularly shaken me until the last 50 or so pages, but holy hell (apt). It's the most gratifying and emboldening ending.

I just love it. I have no words.
Nov 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a story about young women who dare to hope in the face of life's smothering difficulties. This is a story about injustice, betrayal, pain, and loss, but this is also a story about friendship, love, laughter, and loyalty. Most of all, this is a story about persevering even while knowing it would be easier to simply give up. ...more
Robin Tobin (On the back porch reading)
Because I've married into an Italian family and have had the pleasure of hearing many stories from the older generations, this book spoke to my heart..... This is a story, but it follows so close to the realities I know happened to many families during this time...

Popsugar 202 Challenge - 20+ Letters in Title
Bang Bang Books
Oct 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved Bone Gap so I was very excited to read Ruby's next YA novel. I was expecting something a bit deeper in meaning and thought so that's why it's a 4.25 and not higher.

Issues I Had With the Book
* I Wasn't Expecting That-I wasn't expecting a coming of age story. I don't like this genre because I tend to be bored. By the time I figured it out, I was 75% in. Because Bone Gap was so weird, I kept waiting for this book to be weird and to suddenly reveal something amazing but no, it was just a
Nov 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars
I love Laura Ruby's writing. In 13 doorways she transports readers back in time and builds a layered story filled with mystery, lies, and hungry characters. It is a ghost's story. Even though Pearl died in 1918, she is still present in 1940s Chicago as a ghost. One of her main "haunts" is a German Catholic orphanage where Frankie and her siblings have been left by their father during the depression. Through Pearl we learn about Frankie, about her family and her hopes, which in turn reve
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Raised in the wilds of suburban New Jersey, Laura Ruby now lives in Chicago with her family. Her short fiction for adults has appeared in various literary magazines, including Other Voices, The Florida Review, Sycamore Review and Nimrod. A collection of these stories, I'M NOT JULIA ROBERTS, was published by Warner Books in January 2007. Called "hilarious and heart-wrenching" by People and "a knowi ...more

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