When her father has a stroke and must be hospitalized, Lou goes to live with her estranged authoress mother and learns that her mother had gone through a challenging time giving birth to her and that is the reason why she dumped Lou with her father and avoided contacting Lou for so many years. Lou is a quiet teenage who dreams of becoming a writer like her famous authoress mom. She doesn't really know her mom that well as she's been living with her dad most of her life. Lou is the result of a teenage pregnancy and apparently after giving birth to her, her mom passed her to her dad then promptly packed her bags and left. It was only after many years that her mom ever made the effort to get in touch with her.
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One day, Lou comes back from work and sees her dad on the floor complaining of chest pains. Lou thinks her dad might have a heart attack so she calls the paramedics who send her dad off to the hospital. Lou spends the rest of the week worrying about her dad and his condition. Her dad is transferred to a different hospital so that he can get some crucial surgery on his heart. Meanwhile, a social worker is sent to deal with Lou. Lou eventually calls her mom to tell her what happened and her mom insists that she come and live with her. Despite the offer, her mother doesn't seem too thrilled about the idea of having her daughter live with her.
Lou finds that she doesn't get along with her mother at all. She becomes even more heart when she overhears her mother complaining to a friend about how sullen she is. Lou seems to be an inconvenience in her mom's life and most of the time her mom eats out, leaving Lou at home by herself. One day, Lou attends one of her mom's author appearances and meets some of her mom's writing students. Everyone seems to adore her mom and Lou wonders why her mom doesn't show her that same winning personality she shows to others. After her mom reads one of her books aloud, a strange woman in black starts clapping. Lou wonders if this woman has any significance in her mom's life as her mom keeps avoiding any questions she asks about her. Lou's mother finally admits that the over-enthusiastic woman in black was her own mother (and Lou's grandmother), someone she doesn't want in her life. Her mom tells Lou not to ever bring up the topic again.
Lou decides to try to find her grandmother anyway. She befriends a girl at school called Justine, who agrees to help her. Meanwhile, she continues regularly calling her dad to get updates from him and tell him about her experience with her mom. Things with her mom start getting a bit better when Lou expresses an interest in creative writing. Meanwhile, she contacts boardinghouses and lodges to try to get in touch with her grandmother. She finds out her grandmother's name is Heather and that she frequents a boardinghouse in the city.
When Lou finds out her mother is doing another reading, she suspects her grandmother might show up again. When she finally sees her grandmother, the old woman seems confused and claims that she doesn't have any grandchildren. But when Lou explains how her mom is the author, Heather finally understands. Apparently Lou's mother never told her grandmother about her. Lou wants desperately to get to know her grandmother but the old lady doesn't want to talk to her or accept her help. Later, when Lou confronts her mother again about her grandmother, she reveals that Heather also left her when she was young and she could never really forgive her for it. Heather is also a messed up woman who wastes her life away doing drugs and drinking - that's why her mother didn't want Heather in her life.
One day, Heather visits Lou at her mom's apartment. Heather wants Lou's mom to share some of the profits from her books since one of her books was loosely based on her. Lou's mom ends up writing her a check but demanding that she never see her or Lou again. Lou's mom is mad but also glad that Lou finally knows the whole story as she had been avoiding telling it to her. Mother and daughter end up bonding over the experience. The story ends with Lou hearing that her father's surgery went well and he's recuperated and ready to go home.
Best part of story, including ending:
I specifically thought the author did a very sensitive and thoughtful job writing on the concept of parental abandonment from the perspective of the abandoned child. She captured Lou's angst and loneliness as well as her mother's conflicted emotions. I like that the author helped Lou and her mother reconcile with each other so that they could form a healthier mother-daughter relationship in the future.
Best scene in story:
My favorite scene was when Heather visits Lou and her mother. It was a horrible and painful scene to read but the aftermath of the scene was very touching. It was because of this horrible scene that the truth behind the circumstances of Lou's birth is revealed and the barrier of secrecy that was distancing Lou from her mother is torn down.
Opinion about the main character:
I like that Lou was such a conflicted person, especially with regards to her mother. On the one hand, she really admires her mother for being a writer. On the other hand, she really hates her mother for having abandoned her and in her eyes, not making any effort to love her as a mother should love a daughter.