A plangent longing for a missing mother is the theme of this coming-of-age novel. Casey Maywood cannot overcome the burden of loss, her beautiful but troubled mother’s abandonment. Lila Maywood has left Duluth, Minnesota, for the greener pastures of Hollywood, there to pursue a career as an actress.
Coupled with her ambitions for fame and depression over the loss of her own mother, Lila Maywood turned her back on her husband and daughter, Casey’s youth twisted by yearning and memory. Casey’s mind echoes a sad refrain, striking all too familiar notes, the lies the daughter clings to, the waiting for her mother’s return: “There are things to learn here. But why is not one of them.”
Then the handsome Dex Stone stops to view a film called “Two Harbors” playing at the theater in Duluth where Casey works. The two are instantly attracted and begin a romance. When Dex requires more commitment than Casey is prepared to give, they have a falling out. Casey is waiting for him to call and make up when her life is irrevocably turned upside-down once more.
Leaving the security of home, Casey travels to Hollywood, the land of myth, searching for answers to her romance and perhaps her missing mother along the way. Out of her depth in the land of milk and honey, Casey allows herself be guided by people and events once she reaches Hollywood, sensing there are those close by who know the answers she seeks but are reluctant to speak for a variety of reasons.
Having existed in her imagination for so long, Casey believes she is prepared to learn the truth, no matter what the personal cost, but is hampered by the fanciful images she has nurtured throughout her childhood. In true Hollywood fashion, she maneuvers through the smoke and mirrors of the West Coast, doggedly pursuing the few leads to Dex and Lila, a world of facades and duplicitous actions, the Minnesota native frustrated by the lack of response and the thin veneer of civility.
In alternating chapters, real time (with Casey, Dex’s brother, father and assorted starlets) and make-believe (fantasy scenes from a movie or conversations with an incredibly shallow mother), the story plays out. But I recognized the ploy early on: this is a screenplay masquerading as a novel, the characters without subtlety or depth. Nothing about this coy novel feels real, the characters devoid of authenticity; they’re all beautiful, including Casey, lost, betrayed and utterly without inspiration. A movie does not a novel make.