In this debut novel by Emma Straub (following the story collection Other People We Married), the stage is part of Elsa Emerson's life from an early age: her family owns a playhouse in a small town in 1920s Wisconsin. Every summer, tourists stay in the cabins and watch the shows. Elsa, age nine, sweeps up, hangs around and does whatever she can to stay close to the cast and crew.
When Elsa is old enough to star in a play, she falls for Gordon, marries him at 17 and they head for Los Angeles. She immediately becomes pregnant, so Gordon gets the acting jobs while Elsa stays home with the baby. Pregnant with her second child, she meets studio executive Irving Green at a party. He tells her to "have the baby, lose thirty pounds and come and see me." He changes blonde Wisconsin dairymaid Elsa Emerson into exotic brunette Laura Lamont. She divorces Gordon, becomes a star and marries Irving. Laura wins an Academy Award but is sidelined by another baby. Still, Laura is madly in love with Irving and her children, and all is well--until Irving's rheumatic heart gives out.
Combining opportunism, a great heart, an acceptance of the world as it is and a love of theater in whatever form, Laura is an irresistible heroine, sweet, willing to be sexy if need be, always game. At story's end, she has come full circle, except this time her stage is Broadway. --Valerie Ryan, Cannon Beach Book Company, Ore.