When your first novel is this good, how can you ever write anything else? Mona Simpson writes the tale of several woman, outlining Ann's life growing up with her flighty beautiful mother Adele, leaving Wisconsin for LA where Ann was to become a movie star at the age of 12, getting bits of the story from the perspective of Carol (Adele's older sister, back in Wisconsin raising sons 20 feet from her mother's house), Lilian (Ann's grandmother), Adele (Ann's mom), and Ann herself.
Ann lurks painfully behind the surface, adhering to her mother's wishes, going hungry, stopping for milkshakes, worrying about her weight while eating milkshakes, watching her mother sidle up to men so that Ann could have a father.
One of the haunting images is from the beginning, when Ann & Adele are driving cross-country, and when Adele gets mad at Ann she orders her out of the car. Ann usually sits and waits and her mother swings around to get her eventually. Then, one time, instead of waiting by the side of the road, Ann walks onward to a gas station, borrows a dime and calls her grandmother to say they are alright. Another image: Ann, nervous about her friends seeing her mother's cancelled check tacked up behind the register at the restaurants they frequent.
There are too many delicious details to recount here. Read it.