Tender story of a girl growing up motherless in small-town Virginia, by the author of, most recently, Entering Normal (2001), etc.
Tallie begins her story by remembering the night her mother finally returned after a six-month jaunt in Hollywood searching for stardom. Dinah Mae, even in her late 30s, was the town beauty, probably the prettiest woman in the whole county. A virtual twin of Natalie Wood, Dinah Mae knew everything there was to know about the dead actress, and she fed Tallie stories of glamour and determination. But when she came back from Hollywood, Tallie’s mama just didn’t seem the same, and it wasn’t just her failure to have landed a movie role. It’s soon obvious that Mama has cancer, though for a 12-year-old, a dying mother seems an impossible thing. By the time Tallie is 16 (when the story takes place), her sweet father is drowning his sorrow in drink, she’s working the summer at the Klip-N-Kurl, where she diligently writes down all the female wisdom she’s privy to and plans on going to Hollywood to fulfill her mother’s dream. When Glamour Day comes to the salon (a company of “trained professionals” offer makeovers and glamour pics), Tallie sees it as her escape: all she needs is that eight-by-ten glossy to land herself a movie deal. The story follows Tallie’s memories of the past—good times with Mama, then the heartache of watching her die—with her current life in Eden, including the various oddballs at the salon, the witch woman who lives in the woods, and the growing attraction Tallie has for Spy Reynolds, the town’s rich boy who has a troubled past of his own. Along the way, Tallie discovers that her mama had quite a few secrets, and only a trip to Hollywood (and finding who lives at a certain address) will answer the questions Tallie now has.
A well-told coming-of-ager: hardly groundbreaking, but sweet enough to jerk a few tears by end.