A father abducts his daughter, flees to Los Angeles from their home in Toronto, creates a new identity for the two of them, lives in anonymity for eight years—and then gets diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s just as his wife catches up with him.
At the age of 20, Delilah Blue—now Lila Mack—finds herself posing nude for an art class, for she wants to become an artist. She has talent but no money, and she hopes to pick up pointers from crusty art professor Julian Lichtenstein (aka Lichty), far less well known than his famous second cousin, Roy. Until now she’s had little confusion about her identity: Her father Victor has persuaded her that her mother, Elisabeth, didn’t want her, and Lila readily accepts this explanation. It turns out, however, that flaky mom is now in L.A. (along with Lila’s seven-year-old half-sister) because a Canadian psychic had told her she’d find her daughter there. Elisabeth—an artist manqué—keeps checking art galleries for evidence of her daughter’s existence and eventually finds a nude sketch of her. Mom is rather vindictive because it appears Victor has been feeding Lila a line—although he kidnapped her to get her away from her mom’s lax maternal qualities and her spacey artiste, dope-smoking friends, all the time mom had been searching for her daughter. Victor now has problems of his own, however, for even though he’s only 53, he’s forgetting his appointments—and showing up at odd times—as a salesman for a medical-supplies company. He’s also becoming more irrational and impulsive. (A symptom of the problem emerges when he steals a dog left temporarily in his care.) Elisabeth wants to prosecute her husband for kidnapping, but Lila—who ultimately assumes her original and rightful name of Delilah—acts like the only adult in this dysfunctional trio by trying to protect and care for her father and fend off the mother’s pent-up aggression.
Cohen (Little Black Lies, 2009, etc.) knows how to focus on character in ways that make readers care.