Delilah Blue Lovett has grown up in the face of two truths: her mother, a flightly Canadian artist, has abandoned her to live with her father; and her father, a sensible salesman, has worked hard to prevent his only daughter from becoming her mother.
Settled in Los Angeles and far from the Toronto home she once knew, Delilah — now Lila Mack — practices her art in rehearsed stealth, choosing to paint away from the eyes of her disapproving father and destroying most of what she creates. After Victor refuses to pay for art school, Lila takes up a job modeling for a local college. Nude. And while she works to absorb anything she can in those classes, Victor is fighting his own battles — against his aging, failing mind. It’s in this mix that Lila’s mother suddenly finds herself, pulling an 8-year-old girl behind her. Lila’s half sister. And with her sudden appearance, Elisabeth has some news — and plenty of secrets — of her own.
Tish Cohen’s The Truth About Delilah Blue follows one sorry, broken crew from coast to coast, offering us a glimpse into the life of an emotionally-stunted 20-year-old on a quest to find her own family — a quest she didn’t even know she’d embarked upon. When everything Lila assumed to be true of her mother — the good, the bad — turns out to be wrong, she stumbles along on unsteady feet. Lila has a choice to make: believe her father’s side of a once-familiar story, knowing he’s done the best he can to care for her? Or side with her mother, a woman she’s revered and built up in her mind, knowing that to trust her mom means abandoning her dad?
It’s a complicated mess, I’ll give you that. And while I thought I would eventually become invested in Lila’s journey toward self-acceptance and understanding regarding her convoluted past and the strained relationship she has with both parents, Cohen’s book felt long. And difficult. Boring. I recognized the passages where I should have felt moved — or at least felt something — but I didn’t. The novel was a giant black hole of emotional vacancy.
More than anything, that’s what the book was missing: feeling. Emotions. Facial expressions. Tears. Laughter. Something. I felt like I was reading the side of a cereal box, scanning the nutrition facts for things that would harm me. I found only a run-of-the-mill ingredients — ordinary items that, presented differently, might have come together to form a tasty, unforgettable item. But they stayed sequestered and bland.
As with any book I don’t enjoy, the characters here were unlikeable. While I didn’t hate Lila, I didn’t much care for her, either — especially not as a narrator. I found her impossibly naïve and annoying, so easily was she swayed toward her ethereal mother’s opinions. It wasn’t hard to see what she saw, I’ll give you that, but I wanted to slap her for jumping ship so quickly.
And Elisabeth, Lila’s ridiculous mother? She needed the biggest slap of them all. While Victor didn’t always make the smartest choices, at least he wasn’t a completely selfish dingbat. Elisabeth had that category all locked up. Being wholly self-absorbed and delusional about her artistic merits, Elisabeth was unfit to parent a child — proven by the fact that she already screwed up once. And then she has another daughter, a sister to Lila, and royally messes that kid up, too? Seriously, I often wanted to chuck the book across the room. Kieran was the only bright spot in the narrative: a child who thought and behaved like a true adult, the only one in the lot. With her scathing observations, she was a total scene-stealer.
So The Truth About Delilah Blue didn’t work for me, but maybe you’ll have better luck than I did. Just watch out for difficult characters and a plot that would have benefitted from being a solid 100 pages shorter. Though Cohen does a decent job of exploring the feelings of a “lost” child, in the end? I was just a lost, detached reader.
2.5 out of 5!
Review copy provided by TLC Book Tours