In 1982, the American film star Sally Brash won an Oscar for her leading role in the year's best picture, No Trumpets, No Drums. It was made by her husband, acclaimed film producer Saul Jennings. The following year, outside a restaurant in Rome, Sally Brash was killed, hit in the street by a passing car. Her eleven-year-old daughter, Chassi, watched from the pavement. The movie world mourned. Fourteen years later, Chassi Jennings is a box-office star like her mother, beautiful and talented in a way of her own. But suddenly she's dizzy on the set, she can't seem to pretend she's okay, and the film she's shooting has to shut down.
With the biggest film of her life approaching re-creating her mother's signature role in her father's remake of No Trumpets, No Drums-Chassi is sent to psychotherapist Eleanor Costello, Ph.D., who quietly unveils Chassi's memories. In the room where Chassi untangles her grief, Eleanor begins to relive the death of her husband and the estrangement of her only daughter, Caroline. And in between sessions, Ionie St. John, aspiring actress, serves Chassi lattes at the local Cuppa Joe downstairs.
In this intricately woven story of mothers and daughters, loss and reconciliation, and the stubborn nature of truth, the lives of these three women overlap as they search for their true selves and for those they have lost. In Elaine Kagan's beautifully crafted and astonishing fourth novel, we see the Hollywood of old and new, we struggle with the truths and disappointments of two generations of families, and in them we sneak up on pieces of ourselves.
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Elaine Kagan is an actress and writer who has appeared in films and television series, including Traffic, Goodfellas, Absolute Power, ER, and Alias. She is the author of four previous, critically praised novels, The Girls, Blue Heaven, Somebody's Baby, and No Good-Byes. She lives in Los Angeles, where she is currently at work on her next novel and a screenplay.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
"It happened in Italy," the young woman said.
A bus changed gears on Glendon. Eleanor could hear it surface through the normal hum of the street, through the click of the air conditioner and the unopening stretch of windows across the west wall of her office; the whoosh of cool air hit her at her knees. She studied her cuticles, shifted her ass in the black-leather swivel chair, and wrote "cotton balls" on the pad where she had written "cottage cheese." Then she drew a box inside a box and then a lid, an open lid flipped back to reveal the contents, which was nothing because if you drew something inside the box then you wouldn't see the lines that made it a box. How did they do that? Eleanor caught her lip between her teeth and drew a moon. Not in the box, but up in the corner. Floating, as it were.
"Have you ever been to Rome?" the young woman asked Eleanor.
Eleanor didn't answer.
"Well, it was in Rome." And then in a rush, "It's not like I think about this, you know, dwell on it. I mean, it happened a long time ago." She hesitated. "I was only twelve. . .I don't even know if I can remember the details."
Twelve, she was twelve.
Quiet. The young woman's eyes were somewhere on the wall behind Eleanor, either on her framed degrees or on the black-and-white autographed photograph Jimmy had given her of Colette.
"Go on," Eleanor said.
"She was holding my arm. Not exactly holding it, but we had kind of crossed arms for a second"--a slight lift of the eyebrows--"not like a mother and daughter, but more like two girls, two girls. . .in a film, the young woman said, turning her head to one side, away from Eleanor, like in a musical, she said.
A musical. The light fell across her hair, straight beige hair with golden streaks. Golden streaks that Eleanor knew cost an arm and a leg to have put in like that, as if they'd been painted in by God. You could do that when price was no object.
"My Sister Eileen, " the young woman said to the wall of unyielding windows, and then an intake of breath. "I don't know why I thought of that, I don't remember anything about My Sister Eileen. Did they sing in it? It was a musical, I think."
If it was a clown in the box it would be one of those things where you turn the handle and then the lid pops open and the clown doll flies up. All around the mulberry bush, the monkey chased the weasel, that hollow plink0ety sound and then that doll popping up. It was awful. Who would have bought her such a thing? Eleanor tried to envision turning the crank on the box. It was red, she remembered, with a particular smell. Tin? Does tin smell? In her mind's eye, she tried to see who was sitting next to her. Her mother would never have bought her something so scary. Eleanor drew four dots and connected them with a single line. She could never draw a clown in the box. Too difficult. You had to be an artist to draw a clown. Or Red Skelton.
"Technicolor," the young woman went on, "very technicolor. And an apartment where you could see the windows up at the tops of the walls, a kind of basement New York apartment, I guess it was supposed to be, very stylish, you could see people's ankles as they walked up and down the street. It was a set, of course. High-heeled shoes and taxis honking. It must have been a musical, I think I remember singing. . ." Her voice drifted off and then came back again. ". . . she must have shown it to me, Mommy, she must have run it." The slender legs in running shorts lifted now and crossed at the skinny ankles; her enormous marshmallow sneakers didn't reach the end of Eleanor's couch. "They used to run movies at the house when I was little. Sundays for company, whatever was new, and whenever Daddy was working on something he wanted to show her, but she loved to run the old ones. 'Watch what she does now, Chassi, watch what she does.' " Eleanor looked up. The girl's imitation of her mother's voice was unmistakable, the honeyed cadence of Texas and the memorable face of Sally Brash filled the room.
"Not in a fancy screening room like people have now," Chassi continued in her own flat accent, "just in the second living room. This screen would float down from the ceiling with a hum and old Max, the projectionist, would be behind that funnel of light in the little square hole in the wall. Go ahead, Max." Chassi threw out the last three words as if there was someone behind her. "He'd come from the studio, you couldn't see him, just his silhouette, and then the sound of the projector in the dark." She sighed, with her mouth open, a smaller whoosh than the air conditioner. "Nothing was on tape then, all film. So different"--she exhaled--"glamorous." The girl ran her hand through her expensively streaked hair and continued the stretch, the hand reaching above her head; a delicate arm, thin, short fingers, tiny elbow just a little pinker than the rest; no folding skin, no wrinkles, just a pale, young, ivory arm. "I wish I could have been in one of those, not that anybody would make a musical these days." A shrug of a laugh. "Who would make a musical these days? No one in their right mind. Well, Woody Allen, but he's in his own category. He can do anything he wants."
Eleanor drew another moon. This one with a star next to it. Two stars.
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Book Description William Morrow, 2000. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. New item. May have light shelf wear. Bookseller Inventory # 161210019
Book Description William Morrow, 2000. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # M0688157467
Book Description William Morrow, 2000. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Never used!. Bookseller Inventory # P110688157467