Who wouldn’t want to be married to a movie star? The fame, the wealth, the parties; the lies, the infidelities, the recriminations. Happily, it’s the latter attributes Christine Sneed focuses on in her new novel, Little Known Facts (Bloomsbury).
Renn Ivins is an Oscar-winning actor and director in his early 50s. He’s the central figure in the novel but not its central voice: the “lesser planets” in the Ivins orbit—ex-wives, son, and daughter—get their say, too. Renn is rich, famous, and irresistible to women. (And Evanston-born, writes the Evanston-based Sneed.) This is good for Renn, not quite so good for his family. First wife Lucy (Lake Bluff-born) is a pediatrician who never remarried after 15 years with Renn. Second wife Melinda is writing a tell-all memoir about her life with him (“A lot of people think that marrying a movie star is the next best thing to being a movie star. Well, guess what, it’s not”). Daughter Anna, a medical student in LA, seems to have her head together, but when faced with a dilemma she makes uncharacteristically Renn-like choices. Most affected by Renn’s overwhelming influence, however, is son Will—Billy to his family. Will is aimless, adrift, and jealous of his father, even to the point of competing for the same women. (Guess who wins.)
If all this sounds like a soap opera, don’t fear. Sneed (Portraits of a Few of the People I’ve Made Cry) skirts melodrama, merely using these particular characters to examine failings common to all. As Renn notes at one point, “Despite all of our purported brainpower and common sense, human beings are truly a sad and ridiculous species.” Still, there is a satisfying Hollywood ending, heralded by the chapter titled “Hollywood Ending.” You may be tempted to stand and applaud.