Hugely entertaining, irreverent and challenging, Billie Livingston’s new novel drives the bumpy road from the burlesque stages of Rat Pack Vegas to the bedroom Internet porn scenes of today, exploring just how far women have really come.
Vivian is late to her own mother’s funeral. Wearing a skintight lipstick-red suit, Vivian stands out like a pornographer’s dream amongst the raven collection of West Coast intellectuals mourning the untimely death of the famous feminist Josie Callwood. Self-medicating grief with vodka, Vivian can’t help trying to stick her finger in the eye of her dead mother’s expectations.
Dead people have a hard time protecting their secrets, and Josie has left one big surprise for her troubled daughter. When she opens a trunk in her mother’s basement, Vivian discovers that Josie wasn’t who she seemed – and that she had a flaming sexual past more exotic than anything Vivian has been able to pull off. Chasing the lies her mother told her, Vivian sets off on a road trip in which memory, reality and imagination collide to recreate the kaleidoscope world of America in the sixties. In disbelief and dawning admiration, she follows her mother’s trail through the Vegas nexus where movie stars, pop singers, strippers, politicians and the mob mingled, where the Rat Pack ruled and girls were arm and eye candy.
As she uncovers her mother’s true story, Vivian ends up confronting her own sexual lies and spiritual evasions. Billie Livingston’s fine novel leads us to consider the nature of our hidden desires – and to question whether the sky would really fall if we admitted our true needs and ceased to blush.