Cassie Danvers has inherited her grandmother June’s crumbling Ohio mansion, Two Oaks. She is haunted by dreams of its previous occupants and the summer of 1955, when a Hollywood movie did on-location shooting in town. The novel splits between the modern-day uncovering of a family secret and the time of its genesis. Soon a larger inheritance is at stake, and a current Hollywood siren and her entourage descend on Two Oaks, driving Cassie out of her depressed seclusion and forming something like a family.
Meanwhile, back in 1955, a romance develops between Cassie’s teenage grandmother and the charismatic Clark Gable-like star. The courtship is aided and abetted by June’s even younger friend, Lindie, who adores her. There’s some shady land dealing going on, too. As truth continues to be revealed, the house creaks, cracks, and finally breaks under the strain.
Both stories work well, illuminating the cocoon that fame puts around its object, and how living inside can alter reality. The atmosphere of both periods is evoked with precision and beauty. But, as in many split-time structures, the events of one period may seem more compelling than the other. Centering a barely functioning, depressed protagonist over half the book was a gamble that may not always pay off for readers looking to disentangle the events of the past.