The Truth About Delilah Blue
After first reading The Truth About Delilah Blue's jacket blurb, it struck me as a beach book. It turned out I was only slightly incorrect; it's an airplane book, most satisfying when you really have nothing else to do and nowhere else to go.
Delilah, also known as Lila, is working as a nude model in an attempt to absorb the art education she cannot afford. Her father, a successful salesman who has long been the center of her world, now seems to be having trouble navigating the world on his own. It is at this point that Lila's long-lost mother reenters the scene, bringing a little sister and a family secret, both of which cause Lila to reexamine her viewpoint and direction in life.
The story’s center is a question: how do you solve a mystery that explains your entire life when one parent is too self-absorbed to recognize her part in the story, and the other parent is losing the part of his mind that remembers? Is it more important to go back or to go forward?
The Truth About Delilah Blue is well written, with an almost soothing narrative voice and descriptive prose that allows one to forgive the formulaic plot. Recipe for a summer’s read: Mix one plucky heroine with a family crisis, add a plot twist that no one will expect, sprinkle in a few quirky extras, and let combine for a hundred pages or so, more or less according to taste. Our heroine conquers her issues, shows them all, and lands the hot boyfriend just as she should, and voila, everybody’s fine. The story would have been sufficiently likable if it hadn’t tried to be more than it is, but unfortunately that’s not the case here. This book appears to be convinced it is a novel, not just a shortcut to a screenplay, but we have too many loose story threads, too many characters that enter with detail but drift off without explanation. Many concepts are touched on but none are done justice, from the pain of abandoned children to the sadness of a parent with Alzheimer’s and the anger at a parent that just won’t grow up. Any of these could have made for a successful story, several or all of them together if handled correctly and with enough detail. Unfortunately, Cohen sprinkles in only a little of each, and just ends up with soup.
The book is slow to start, and is most interesting in the middle third. The ending really isn’t one; only the father’s character sees resolution, while the others are left adrift in a sea of what ifs. Lila makes plans to be the one to gather up and hold together the loose ends of her family, and you expect to see how she manages the feat. Instead, the story just stops.
The Truth About Delilah Blue is enjoyable if you enter with little in the way of expectation. It’s just the thing to pick up before your next flight.