Mother and daughter flee home with too little money and no plans in this depressing and catharsis-free first novelset in the '50sby the author of the story collection As Much As I Know (1992).
Twelve-year-old Lily Wolsey's mother, June, doesn't like knowing that her traveling-salesman husband sleeps around on his business trips, but she's willing to look the other way until the day he chooses to move in with one of his other women. Stuck in her mother's house in Covington, Virginia, with no one but Lily for company, June decides to run away, taking her daughter with her. The trouble is, June has no plans, no skills, and nowhere to goso instead of moving to another town and starting life over, June and the confused Lily keep driving, roughly in circles, around the southern half of the US. Wherever the Wolseys go, trouble follows: A visit to a cousin ends abruptly when June and the cousin's husband are caught with clothes askew; a stay with an in-law in Florida ends when June, drunk as usual, is raped by their hostess's son. Meanwhile, as their finances decrease, June steals, lies, and prostitutes herself to pay for yet another motel room or repairs for the car. Lily, terrified of being left behind, shrugs off the years of school she's missing and learns to flirt with men for money just like her mom. Eventually the two take to buses and trains, sleeping in flophouses until a longer stay in a black-owned bar on the poor side of Memphis gives Lily the time to catch her breath, collect a few dollars, and leave her mother.
A tale of degradation and desperation, for those who like their coming-of-age stories extra noir.