The Hollywood Daughter

The Hollywood Daughter

by Kate Alcott


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781101912249
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 02/06/2018
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 319,296
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.40(d)

About the Author

KATE ALCOTT is the pseudonym for journalist Patricia O'Brien, who has written several books, both fiction and nonfiction. As Kate Alcott, she is the New York Times bestselling author of The Dressmaker, The Daring Ladies of Lowell, and A Touch of Stardust.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

New York, 1959

"Dropped something.”

A neighbor from upstairs, the man with the sandy-­haired crew cut, was emptying the mailbox next to mine. He pointed downward to a cream-­colored envelope skittering toward the heating grate.

“Thanks.” I scooped the envelope up and scanned it; no return address. It hardly registered; I was holding tight to another envelope, the one from Better Homes and Gardens. So maybe they wanted that hasty piece I sent them on a new kind of doll named Barbie? It wasn’t one of the stories I labored over at night—­this one might actually have a chance of selling. One more glance at the fancy piece of mail, which probably announced the wedding of a classmate whom, after five years, I would only vaguely remember.

The man with the crew cut was closing up his box and turning toward the elevator. He looked about my age, somewhere in his late twenties. “Good day for you?” I asked impulsively.

His eyes widened. “Uh, yeah,” he mumbled. When the elevator door opened, he all but jumped inside.

I truly knew better: you didn’t ask questions of strangers in New York. Of course, everybody remained a stranger, but no one seemed to find that a problem.

I started up the stairs to my apartment. For me, it hadn’t been so good a day. Too much time now at Newsweek. I had managed a promotion to the copy desk, but it was a boring job. It paid the bills, so I stuck with it and wrote stories at night, shipping them off to various magazines. If nothing happened there, maybe the editor’s position I had applied for would come through. Today? Well, somebody else got it—­a copy boy just out of college. So, yes, I was more tired than usual. I began counting the steps, a favored way of diverting myself from wondering why I was drifting. It wasn’t working tonight.

I stopped on the landing and stared into the mirror hung to perk up the light on the stairs. Checking myself out. Blue angora sweater set and single-­strand pearls, long brown hair curled under in a careful pageboy—­I looked like every other eager female marking time until marriage. One of the copy editors had told me I was a “good-­looking dame” this morning. A compliment, I guess. But, standing there at the landing, I wondered just exactly what had happened to the girl who left Bennington College five years ago.

Well, I wasn’t a virgin anymore.

The usual smells of the second floor greeted me, especially the pungent but comforting aroma of garlic and onions from the apartment next to mine. I didn’t know the people living there, but I heard them laughing and sometimes shouting at each other, and I imagined them sitting around a kitchen table covered in red-­checked oilcloth, eating some delectable lasagna, while I was out here in the hall, inhaling the musty smell of the threadbare carpet mixed with a faint whiff of fresh dog urine.

Oh, please. Annoyed at my self-­pity, I jiggled open the lock with its ancient key and stepped inside the apartment, which felt gloomier tonight than the stairwell. It was pouring outside, the rain coming down in exuberant, gurgling rivers over the windows, probably because the gutters hadn’t been cleaned in years.

I dumped the mail on the coffee table, staring at the letter that mattered. Would I feel worse when I found out what was inside? I picked it up and slit it open smoothly with one pass of my fingernail. The article about the Barbie doll fell out.

“Thank you for your submission. Unfortunately . . .”

Okay, no surprise. I glanced at the manuscript of a short story on the table that had come from The Atlantic yesterday—­topped by a rejection letter with those same exact words. Was there just one typewriter somewhere dedicated to rejecting potential authors? I crumbled the paper tight and tossed it on the floor.

Then, in more leisurely fashion, I opened the fancy envelope.

It was an invitation, yes. Engraved. But not to a wedding.

Jessica Malloy (indeed, me) was cordially invited to attend the 1959 Academy Awards Ceremony at the Pantages Theater in Los Angeles as a guest. Nowhere on the card did it say who was doing the inviting—­just a cool request for an immediate RSVP, because attendance was limited.

My heart missed a couple of beats. Me? What was this about? There must be some mistake.

I smoothed the polished surface of the invitation with my hand, letting it be, for one second, Aladdin’s lamp. The broken gutters, the moldy carpet disappeared.

The Academy Awards. 1946. Once, just once, I had been part of that amazing scene—­watching reporters with microphones eagerly search for beautiful people—­and feeling my scalp prickle with the excitement of their voices as they grabbed breathless interviews with the stars. Closing my eyes, I walked again down a red carpet, chin up, holding my father’s hand, trying to avoid looking at the craning faces of fans searching for celebrities, those whip-­thin women in slithery satin gowns and handsome men in crisp tuxedos who filled this world of make-­believe. The past was tumbling, all raucous and glittery, into the present. My head suddenly filled with light and color and the thrill of twirling briefly at the top of the world.

Which meant, inevitably, remembering Ingrid Bergman.

The fans had loved her that night, their imploring hands reaching out as she floated by on the red carpet, all hoping her smile would embrace them, giving them something to remember and talk about for years. I could almost see her perfectly sculpted face, even hear her voice again.

And with those memories came the sounds and smells and confusion of my crazy childhood. This invitation—­I ran a finger over the engraved lettering—­was someone’s idea of a joke. Who would be beckoning me back to a city I once swore never to visit again? What was I overlooking?

I reached for the phone and did what I often did—­dialed long-­distance to talk to Kathleen, my high-­school friend, and my strongest link to the past. We had both changed—­she sold real estate in Los Angeles, and her voice was now raspy from a few too many cigarettes—­but almost everything she said came with either a ring of common sense or a bounce of laughter. Unlike me, she was able to flick away the dictates of rules and orders like so much dust when they became burdensome. Her exit from our shared Catholic upbringing was an easy, casual move, and I envied that casualness. Even when I fled Los Angeles, our friendship survived. It was hard staying in touch at first, but we’d managed pretty well over the years.

I could hear the distant phone ringing. A three-­hour difference; please be home, Kathleen, I begged silently. I need you to help me figure this out.

Kathleen did not disappoint.

“An invitation? Interesting,” she said.

“What possible connection would I have to that world anymore?”

“Well—­maybe it’s from a friend of your father?”

“There aren’t that many still around, even the ones who went to jail. And none with any power to send off one of these. I want to know who invited me. This feels phony.”

“Call and find out if it’s authentic; hey, even if it is, come back out here for a few days. I’d love to see you.”


“Anyway, it’s good timing—­we’d get to catch up—­and you get to see the last of Saint Ann’s Academy.” There was just the hint of a catch in her voice.


“They sold our school, Jesse. Bishop Doyle wants the money from the land. They’re tearing it down for a shopping mall.”

And why did that suddenly punch me in the heart? Our school. That graceful sweep of Spanish mission-­style buildings, seasoned by decades of use, settled comfortably among green lawns and lush trees . . .

“Where will the nuns go?”

“An old school dormitory in the Valley. Will you come? One last chance.”

“Why would they want to see me? I’m the one who messed up our high-­school graduation, in case you’ve forgotten.”

“There were extenuating circumstances,” she said soberly.

That caught me. I stared out the window, hit now by another downpour of rain. I should hurry and shut all the windows, not waste time digging up the past.

“Okay, will you come? Maybe you’ll meet some of those new hotshot filmmakers—­you know, people like Bob Fosse.” This was Kathleen’s teasing voice.

“I don’t know who he is.”

“Well, you will. And maybe you’ll be lucky enough to be around for the next atomic bomb test. They’re setting them off every three weeks now.”

“But that’s in Nevada.”

“True. All the tourists head for a front seat in Las Vegas. But if you time it to the second, you can see a burst of light from a few places here. Do you know they’re crowning a new ‘Miss Atomic Blast’ next month?”

“The world is crazy.”

“Yep. Crazier than Hollywood.” Then a pause. “Look,” she said quietly. “Come back. We’ll walk through everything together.”

“What if you come here?”

It wasn’t just a mysterious invitation at stake; she and I both knew that. I wished she lived closer. But Kathleen would never leave L.A.

“Leave this land of opportunity? No way,” she said. “Maybe I’ll get rich. Well, maybe not rich,” she amended, “but I’m going to be buying a house for myself pretty soon. By the way, speaking of scandals—­there’s a good one on Errol Flynn in Screenland.”

“You’re trying to tempt me back with old movie gossip,” I said, smiling.

“Of course I am; we shared enough of it growing up. Who outgrows gossip?”

“You have a point.”

“Ah, you’re coming?”

“I’m thinking about it.”

“I’ll be waiting to hear.”

“I’ll think about it,” I repeated. We said goodbye, and I made my way to the kitchen for a glass of wine, mulling over the mix of glitz and piety that had shaped my childhood in the land of make-­believe that was Los Angeles. I had never liked the tall, skinny palm trees.


I was something of a split Catholic from the beginning, the product of a pious mother who framed my life within the church rules and a father who provided the shrug, the chortle that helped me breathe easier. I knew we were of some vaguely exotic breed, but that didn’t directly affect me. I was a member of the One True Faith, and could feel sorry for all the unfortunate people who weren’t. It was sad, but, from what I heard in catechism class, they couldn’t go to heaven when they died. Instead they went to limbo, a calm, rather boring place where good people went who weren’t baptized. Our parish priest implied we didn’t have to feel too sorry for some of them, because they hadn’t treated us very well—­refusing jobs to Irish and Polish immigrants, and having members of the Ku Klux Klan march around in white sheets with peekaboo eye slits, waving torches, ready to burn our houses in places like the Deep South. The Masons didn’t like us, either, and I knew about those “No Irish Need Apply” signs that went up in Boston store windows during the Great Depression. It was all something of a jumble.

I look now on how all this soaked into my soul, and I wonder. But back then, I was daunted by the rigor it took to remain a good Catholic in a church that required careful stepping to avoid sin. My father was my protector, mainly with his knowing wink. Mostly he was fun—­and that’s because he lived and worked in the delightful world of make-­believe called Hollywood. He was a studio publicist, which I imagined to be a lofty perch from which he could wave a magic wand and create wonderful realities. I loved hearing about his work at the Selznick Studio, and his jokes about the glamour kings and queens of the movie industry. He lived confidently, and I knew—­without having the words for it—­that his jaunty jokes would surely prevail over the fears of hell and damnation that dogged me through early childhood.

Not that I would think of testing this assumption. Mother, in her firm, steely way, made sure of that.

My mother—my elusive, haunted mother. Father sometimes jokingly called her the Church’s traffic cop; sometimes not so jok­ingly. Mother knew the moral dangers of life, and had me memo­rize my catechism before first grade. Hell was a blunt instrument, and she believed in it thoroughly.

It hadn’t always been that way. When I was small, she some­times drew me into the beauty and magic of the Church. I remem­ber one Christmas Eve she took me to Midnight Mass. I knelt before the vividly lifelike image of the baby Jesus in the manger, enthralled by the flickering votive lights and the scent of pine branches, as she whispered to me the story of his miracle birth. Her hand stroked my hair as she talked, and I felt I was sharing with her something spiritual and good.

But there weren’t many memories like that. I sensed early that the split between the two worlds my parents represented was a source of constant tension. My father loved talking about the poli­tics of both, but Mother would turn cold at any criticism of the Catholic Church. By the time I was ten, Father had pronounced the Church’s influence in Hollywood too powerful. He described to me how Church censors—those arbiters of movies, both accept­able and condemned—kept a cold and ferocious eye on the indus­try. The industry itself had its own nervous policing, he said, but the Catholic bishops were the toughest. When they condemned what they didn’t like, Hollywood sat up straight and paid attention.

“Yeah, we got away with too much in the thirties,” Father said when I asked him why. “Too much sex and skin—people got fed up.”

“Gabriel”—I remember that warning tone in my mother’s voice. I heard it more and more as I grew older—“she’s only a child.”
“She asked, I answered,” he said. “She’s a smart cookie.”

I treasured that response.

He loved expanding on the topic. Movies could be killed by a speech from the pulpit, he said. Studio heads weren’t worried about hell; they tossed and turned at night, worrying about box-office receipts. And it wasn’t just movies being condemned. As far as damnation was concerned, even Dante couldn’t do better than the emerging political vigilantes in Washington.

Father sounded out the syllables slowly. “Nail that label onto the forehead of some writer or actor, and you’ve killed a career. There are real bad guys in Washington feeding the paranoia—”

“Enough, Gabriel,” Mother objected again. She slapped a wet towel against the Formica counter—a sound sharp enough to silence even my father.

I think sometimes these days Kathleen gets bored when I rail on about how the shabby politics of Hollywood and Washington ruined lives, not to mention the Catholic Church’s condemnation of sinners for small infractions, especially for seeing forbidden movies. She would point out that I’ve always been madder at the moral contradictions that took over my world than anyone else she knows. “You want both parts of your life to work,” she said.

“Sometimes I just want to throw them both away.”

“Good luck.”


No need for dinner. I drank the last of my wine and slowly prepared for bed. So Saint Ann’s Academy, that graceful enclave of belief and trust gone sour, was soon to be torn down. Maybe I should show up, to mourn it somehow. I had told myself I would never set foot in Los Angeles again, but this invitation on my bed­side table was drawing me in, whispering possibilities. Maybe I should do it. Maybe I could cut through the haze that had envel­oped me for far too long.
I had a week of vacation coming to me, plus an extra weekend. I could use it all to make this trip.

I drifted off into restless sleep, listening to the rain on the win­dows, thinking of Kathleen’s words.

One last chance.

And the floodgates began to open.

Chapter Two

Los Angeles, 1942

My cousin Jeremy once told me you have to choose your heroes by the time you’re ten years old. He, a decade older than I, liked to give me lessons about life, which I drank in. He had already read parts of Dante’s “Inferno” to me out loud. It was scary—evil popes burning in fire—but I was dazzled, particularly by the spooky illustrations. Jeremy never quite spelled out why I needed to choose a hero now, maybe because he clearly preferred instruction to illumination. But I must have sensed that the supply of heroes, like husbands, could thin out if I waited too long. So I obeyed. When you chose a hero, he told me, it was for life. No ifs, ands, or buts about it, you had to stay loyal. And when it came to loyalty, I looked to my father’s world.

Jeremy, a baseball lover, chose the Cardinals. I chose Ingrid Bergman.

She slipped into my heart very early, almost before I knew it. It was 1942, and I was still attending Sheldon Country Day School in Beverly Hills. My father was quite artful about making connec­tions that advanced him in the movie business. Surely, that’s how I found myself in a Hollywood version of a ride-sharing plan—no mothers driving, just a hired chauffeur in a crisp, starchy uniform and hat—that included Pia Lindström, Ingrid Bergman’s little daughter.

I never really knew any of those girls who shared that morn­ing ride. There were about eight of us, all ages; we just wiggled for space every morning, eating frosted doughnuts and scratching away at homework, as the driver made his way up to the winding paths of the super-grand homes where some of them lived. But I looked forward each day to the moment when we pulled up in front of 1220 Benedict Canyon Drive. This was Pia’s house.

The car would idle, the driver drumming his fingers on the wheel, until the front door of the house opened. Little Pia, about four years old, all tiny and crispy in her Peter Pan collar, would come rushing out. Her mother would walk her to the car, then wave and smile goodbye, looking sleepy in a blue chenille bathrobe that fluttered around her ankles. Her long hair usually looked like it needed a good brushing; she kept it tucked behind her ears.

I was already enough of a Hollywood kid to know how the light clicks on and off between glamour and ordinary life for actors. But Ingrid Bergman was so beautiful, so queenly—remote and real at the same time. I hadn’t seen Intermezzo, the movie that first made her famous, but my father raved about her.

“Oh my God,” he said to Mother one night, “this new beauty from Sweden can act. She is luminescent, almost ethereal. I guar­antee, she’s going to be famous.”

“Just because she has a marvelous complexion?” Mother responded, with a slight edge.

“No, not just that.” Father wrapped his arms around her as she stood by the stove. “She wears flat shoes, too. And you know how I feel about flat shoes.”

Mother laughed. That was rare, and I felt warm inside.

Ingrid was tall, very tall; so was I, even in fourth grade. I’m not quite sure why I was so immediately enthralled, but I wasted no time trying to puzzle it out. She made me want to stand up straight, to be proud of my height instead of awkward. She had grace and a beautiful smile, and I wanted to be like her.

I’d peek at her through the car window, hoping she might cast a glance in my direction. No luck—until the morning we pulled to the curb and I dropped my lunch box just as one of the girls opened the door. Horrified, I watched as the box burst open, scat­tering my egg sandwich and chocolate pudding all over Ingrid Bergman’s velvet-smooth lawn.

I scrambled out of the car, acutely aware of the giggling behind me, and tried to clean up the mess before she came down the path with Pia. Suddenly I felt her long, graceful fingers gently pulling me up. “It’s all right, child,” she said, “the gardener will clean it up.” She put her hand to my forehead, and I smelled lilacs.

“Are you okay?” she asked.

I nodded, voiceless.

“Don’t be ashamed,” she said. “I once dropped an egg-salad sandwich on David Selznick’s lap, and he got over it.”

She hugged me and laughed, and I loved her forever.


Somehow Ingrid became the gentle, joking, loving mother I longed for. She floated through my days, punctually at seven-thirty every weekday morning, as much a part of my comforting routine as my bowl of steaming oatmeal at home.

The only flaw was, she wasn’t Catholic. She was Swedish, so she had to be Protestant; I knew that much. Still, I imagined her as someone like me in one way or another.

I knew being Catholic was what separated my family from the families of my friends at school, and my father from the studio mainstream. It wasn’t just that we still lived on the wrong side of Wilshire Boulevard; it was the fact that non-Catholics seemed awk­ward when the subject of religion came up. My father explained that some people thought we paid first allegiance to an Italian pope and wondered what went on in the confessional, and how we could believe in something called the Holy Trinity. I don’t think there were any other Catholics at Country Day, which seemed fine with my father. Religious mandates rested lightly on his shoulders, like feathers he could shrug off at will.

One day, Cousin Jeremy told us all on a visit from college that he didn’t believe in God anymore. And he certainly wasn’t about to drag himself out of bed at his dormitory on Sundays—after a hard week studying—just to go to Mass. My father didn’t seem upset; he actually chuckled that Jeremy was more likely to spend his time out partying, but standing on his own two feet was good for him. Mother was scandalized.

I was aware of her watching me much more closely afterward. And I heard my parents at night in bed talking in low tones. My name kept getting repeated, which put me on alert. My safe life had jiggled a bit at Mother’s reaction to Jeremy’s declaration of independence. It jiggled more the day my father asserted his.

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The Hollywood Daughter: A Novel 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
gaele More than 1 year ago
Oh this was fun, and plays with the golden ages of Hollywood, the 1940’s and 1950’s where the freedoms for stars were usually hidden from the public eye, and the Catholic Church and the influence of the Red Scare and the despotic actions of Joe McCarthy were headline news. Alcott uses the then shocking affair of Ingrid Bergman and Roberto Rosselini to bring the story to light. Jessica Malloy was a child, daughter of a Hollywood PR man, and Bergman’s agent. Add to that, her family is devoutly Catholic, and the choices made by the actors her father represented were often problematic in a moral sense But, Alcott takes us deeper, as we see Jessica’s understanding of the situation as a child: the uptick in the Red Scare and blacklisting, and her own concerns with her father’s involvement, or lack thereof as their fortunes and futures are inexorably tied to the industry and the questions. While Bergman caused quite a stir, and her affair and subsequent pregnancy become a liability to Hollywood studios, she is banished, and Jessica’s father, as her agent, loses a formerly powerful star, but one who had a great impact on the young Jessica, encouraging her natural curiosity and standing for choices. Alcott uses these lessons, couched in stories from film sets, tales of wrongly accused and berated individuals, and the rampant McCarthyism that placed fear above fact and thought to tell the story, and cleverly parallels Jessica’s own learning curve with the story and her own family’s secrets, adding depth and perspective to Jessica’s story, giving her plenty to fight for or against. Frustrated and disillusioned, she leaves the West Coast heading for New York, and is divorced from the whole scene until an anonymous invitation to the Oscars gives her the opportunity to dig deeper and come to terms with the questions stil lurking. While I enjoyed this story, and the details and information were clearly presented, there was a naiveté to Jessica that made her much younger (even for her age) than I expected, even for the time. There was also an importance added to the facts and descriptions that left the emotional components less present, and while I enjoyed Jessica, and could understand her confusion and questions, I never really had that emotional connection to her. What did come forward were multiple lessons about crowd mentality, the power of fear as a tool to control, and the dangers of one man, unchecked, given the ability to redesign the world to his own standards: without actually deigning to answer to, be questioned by, or throttled in any way. A curious connection to present day, presented without actually attempting to approach the current state of affairs, and all the more powerful for it. I received an eArc copy of the title for the publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
Gail-Cooke More than 1 year ago
Hollywood stories abound but perhaps none are as unique as this one.  It's easy to forget how many people, some on the periphery of the movie industry are affected by the life of a major star.  Case in point is the poignant story of Jesse Malloy.      She is the daughter of Gabriel Malloy, a studio publicist whose career was skyrocketing along with that of his most famous client, Ingrid Bergman.  Thanks to Gabriel's promotion of the movie Casablanca he was able to buy a Beverly Hills mansion complete with pool.  Jesse's mother was a devout Roman Catholic and enrolled her daughter at Saint Ann's, an all-girls Catholic school.  Her time there was peaceful and trouble free.  What was outstanding in Jesse's adolescence were her brief contacts with Bergman who her father was grooming as not only beautiful and talented but also saintly (thanks to the two movies The Bells of St. Mary's and Joan Of Arc.)  Jesse's admiration for Bergman verged on adoration when Saint Ann's was chosen the location for The Bells Of Saint Mary's.  Bergman was rapidly embraced, endorsed by the Catholic Church and the dreaded Legion of Decency.      In retrospect one can only imagine the brouhaha when Bergman leaves her husband for director Roberto Rossellini not just for a dalliance but also bears him a child.  What effect could all of this have had on the adolescent Jesse?  In addition to the young girl's personal response we follow her as her family tries to adapt to a dramatic change in Gabriel's career.      Absorbing reading!      Kate Alcott is the pseudonym for journalist Patricia O'Brien who is a New York Times bestselling author. 
onemused More than 1 year ago
3.5 stars "The Hollywood Daughter" is the engaging story of Jessica (Jesse) growing up in the midst of Hollywood during the 40s/50s. Her father works PR for many of the stars, including Ingrid Bergman, whom Jesse loves and idolizes. She is experiencing a lot of turmoil in her own life- particularly with religion. Her mother is a devout Catholic, while her father is not. Jesse is caught somewhere in the middle. Things escalate when she is placed in a Catholic school. Jesse's story is really engaging, and although it takes place in the 40s/50s, it easily could have been from any time, as so much of her growth and family turmoil is timeless. The thread throughout is her idolization of Ingrid Bergman, who is maybe not so perfect. As discussed in the description, Bergman's affair has implications that are reflected in Jesse's life. Although set around the scene of Hollywood, the vast majority of this book could have occurred anywhere- movies cast across the country and family tension/coming-of-age is certainly something universal/timeless. The setting adds a little bit something extra to the book, but the story was strong without it. Overall, it's a really engaging coming-of-age story of a young woman finding her own way through religion and life. It is at times meandering and gets caught in thought, but overall, it flows very well through the key events in Jesse's life, taking us along for an intriguing ride. Please note that I received an ARC of this book through a goodreads giveaway. All opinions are my own.
LeighKramer More than 1 year ago
I grew up watching anything starring Audrey Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, Jimmy Stewart, Katharine Hepburn, Bing Crosby, and of course, Ingrid Bergman. For this reason alone, I wanted to read The Hollywood Daughter and see what I could learn Bergman and her costars from this different perspective. I grew up knowing about post-scandal Bergman but Jessica Malloy grew up seeing her as a role model. Something or someone to aspire to. She loved Ingrid's films but she also got glimpses of Ingrid in person, whether at school pickup (Ingrid's daughter went to Jessica's school) or at the studio when she accompanied her dad. Those brief interactions with Ingrid mean everything to Jesse. Ingrid represents a form of escape, an escape from stressful transitions at school and the tensions between her parents. We first meet Jesse in 1959. She's living in New York and she hasn't been back to LA since her high school graduation. She doesn't even like to think about those days but an anonymous invitation to the Academy Awards brings the past into her present. The story alternates between flashbacks to LA in 1942 and Jesse's present. The flashbacks slowly weave us toward the painful moment which drove Jesse away and it kept me guessing. We experience the glamour of Hollywood through Jesse's naive, innocent eyes, as her PR father perfectly times the release of Casablanca and launches Ingrid's career. We get to see Jesse go to the Academy Awards in 1946, the year Ingrid and Bing Crosby were nominated for Bells of St. Mary's. We watch her transfer to St. Ann's Catholic School, a move orchestrated by her mother's strident faith and against Jesse's wishes. Her parents disagree about how their faith should be practiced, with her mother becoming ever more devoted and legalistic and her father eventually no longer attending due to the bishop's involvement with the Legion of Decency. This tension permeates the house and Jesse is caught between them. One of the more interesting backdrops is the rise of the Red Scare and how the fear of communism needlessly decimated peoples' lives. This plays out in a very personal way for the Malloy family and I was equal parts gripped and infuriated on their behalf. I also couldn't help but reflect on what this means for our time. When we first meet Jesse, her life hasn't turned out the way she wanted. The dream of living in New York is not so much a dream and her career has yet to take off. She also hasn't dealt with the events that led her to leave LA. The Academy Award invitation brings her back: to her best friend Kathleen, to St. Ann's which is closing, to her past. Jesse has to face her idealization of Ingrid Bergman, too. What did Bergman represent to her and how did that change when Bergman left her husband for Roberto Rossellini? Why did it represent the end of so much for Jesse? As we get the answers to these questions, Jesse begins to see what she wants from life and from her relationships. The character growth is authentic and well paced. I really appreciated the way Alcott addressed hero worship and the ramifications in Jesse's life. I also appreciated the way religion was treated throughout: it's a balm, it's a source of strength, it's a weapon, it's a crutch, depending on the character and place. But my favorite part was the negative impact of the Red Scare and how this story personalized it. We would do well to pay attention. Disclosure: I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.