This novel begins with Tillie Harris going into labor. She is in a new town and her husband is away on a business trip. Even though her relationship with her father is tenuous, she must rely on him to get her to the hospital. What is strange is that she hasn't spoken to her father in years, but he is all she has available to her at the time. So begins her memories of wondering where her mother went when she, Tillie, was a child, which is the major portion of this novel, and how her father was involved with the disappearance.
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The novel goes back and forth in time while Tillie is in labor weeks before she is due to have the baby. She recalls living on a military base and her mother, Mara, being depressed and unreliable while her father must deal with the woman. Mara has unsettling highs and disturbing lows while the Harris family must hide her as best they can because she is not only a possible danger to her children, but an embarrassment for her father.
Tillie is required to stay with her father's secretary, Anne, while her father packs up and moves the family due to having to relocate for his position in the Pentagon. Finally, once things are settled, she gets to go to their new home, but is shocked to find that her mother has not made the move with them and no one explains where Mara has gone. She also doesn't understand why her father will not allow her or her brother to go into the basement of the home they'd moved into. I don't want to give any spoilers, but as it turns out, Tillie's brother knows more about what happened to their mother than Tillie realizes for awhile.
While Tillie is dealing with being on the cusp of motherhood, she must come to terms with her own parents' failings. Some readers may not be satisfied by the novel's end, but if one likes well-developed characters with flaws then this book will be for them.
Best part of story, including ending:
I like that it was well-written and didn't dumb down the story while the character of Tillie was delightfully fleshed out.
Best scene in story:
When Tillie investigates with a new friend about the whereabouts of her mother. Sad, but charming.
Opinion about the main character:
I like that she is outgoing but cannot seem to make friends due to her quirkiness, which makes the reader wonder if she is capable of mental illness as she gets older.