Our first view of Tommy Bedford is when a prison guard is escorting him, at age thirteen, to see his mother before she's executed after being found guilty of murder.
The actual story begins in 1959 when Tom is eight-years-old. He lives in a world where his heroes are the stars of Western TV shows. He owns a photo of Flint McCullough, star of "Wagon Train," which he cherishes.
Tom is a quiet boy who is attempting to cope with a nighttime bed wetting problem. His parents are understanding and sympathetic but they are much older than the parents of his friends.
He's sent to Alhlawn Prep, boarding school, to toughen him up. The school, an imposing Gothic mansion had been a mental hospital and is a cold, frightening facility for this little boy. There is similarity to Tom Brown in the novel by Thomas Hughes, which took place at an English boarding school in the 1830s.
At Ashlawn Prep, Tom undergoes such bullying by other students and sadistic behavior by one faculty member that he smuggles a letter out to his sister, Diane. He thinks that his sister is the only one who would understand and he pleads with her to find a way to get him out of the school.
Upon receiving the letter, Diane is brought to tears with compassion but she's not in position to help. She's a young actress on the brink of success.
It's not for another year that Diane has become a successful actress. She has moved to Hollywood where she met actor Ray Montane, who is famous for his cowboy character, Red McGraw. Diane rises in success while the cowboy movies of the times diminish in popularity and he begins to feel somewhat jealous of her success.
Imagine the effect of a little boy, now age nine, when his actress sister, and her famous boyfriend come to the school. Tom's esteem soars but then Diane admits that she's not his sister but is his mother. But at the same time, she and Ray are able to provide a home for him in Hollywood.
The story is interlaced between events of the past and what is happening currently. We see how sixteen-year-old Diane became pregnant and how Tom, in his fifties is now a divorced filmmaker and writer. The emotional abuse he had growing up has led to his escape into alcohol which ruined his marriage and changed the rest of his life.
A powerful character driven novel by the author of "The Horse Whisperer." The pacing of the story and of Tom's life make him and Diane memorable and sympathetic characters.
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