Sneed’s debut novel, which follows a short story collection (Portraits of a Few People I’ve Made Cry, 2010), goes beyond the tabloid headlines and chronicles the lives of those who orbit a famous actor.
Celebrity has its perks as well as its drawbacks, and revered movie icon Renn Ivins’ life is no exception. Adored by fans throughout the world, those closest to him also are affected by his aura and not necessarily in a positive way. His earnings provide financial security for his children, ex-wives, family members and girlfriends, but Ivins’ fame is a double-edged sword. Both of Ivins’ adult children become involved with lovers who secretly thrill at the chance to be connected to his inner circle. Will, his son, coasts through life engulfed in a sea of contradicting emotions. He loves Ivins and inwardly strives to please him, but he also resents his father’s interference and feels as if he will never measure up to his expectations, so he compensates in other not-so-healthy ways. At the same time, although he despises himself for it, he uses his father’s name to impress others. Anna, Will’s sister, is a brilliant but naïve medical student who rationalizes her questionable choices and has more in common with her father than she realizes. Time has more or less softened Ivins’ first wife’s attitude toward him. A successful pediatrician who has lived a solitary life since their divorce 15 years earlier, she still watches all of his movies. And then there’s Ivins himself. Fodder for a bitter second wife’s book and a boon for his much younger girlfriend’s career, this author of two journals—one for posterity, the other more personal and destroyed each year—knows the allure of his public persona. It’s what he cultivates when he donates to charities and signs autographs. And it’s much easier on the ego to believe his own press.
Sneed effectively blurs the line between fact and fiction and brings each character to life.