A debut novel about a nightclub singer preoccupied with her own desires and a young daughter who yearns for her love.
Ten-year-old Sophia Hill knows her mother’s life is about to change as she watches her final performance at the Blue Angel. Naomi’s picture now graces the cover of Look magazine, and she’s famous. Naomi has achieved her goal, but Sophia’s dream is different: She just wants her mother’s love. It’s 1965, and Sophia lives in a Chicago motel with Naomi, meticulously documenting the comings and goings of the men and women who spend time in her mother’s bedroom, including a couple of guests from the past. She doesn’t fully grasp the meaning behind all of Naomi’s visitors, but Sophia is wise beyond her years in many ways. Surrounded by adults who’ve always protected and indulged her mother, she's never experienced a normal family life. Instead, her days and nights revolve around Naomi’s needs, and she worries that her mother will leave her behind the same way she imagines Naomi left her own parents. However, unbeknownst to Sophia, Naomi’s life has been one of turmoil and deprivation. One of seven children born in poverty in Kansas, she was a rambunctious student until a teacher recognized her talent and encouraged her to sing. After graduating from high school, she was forced to leave town after becoming sexually involved with the daughter of a prominent community leader, sparking a complicated future with regard to relationships. Telling the story from Sophia's and Naomi’s distinct perspectives, Rotert creates an expressive and haunting narrative highlighting Sophia’s innocent vulnerability and her mother’s single-minded obsession. Though the characters are very different, the author’s interpretation of both emerges spot-on. And, while Naomi’s journey is interesting, Sophia’s story hooks the reader from the beginning and dominates, particularly as the final chapters unfold.
A tale that’s poignant, poetic and heart-wrenching throughout.