In 1978, seventeen-year-old Rosemary Mahoney spent her summer as housekeeper for author Lillian Hellman. A great admirer of Hellman's life and writing, Mahoney had applied directly to Hellman for the job, and could hardly believe her good luck in being hired. By the end of her first week of work, however, her mother had to talk her into staying.

Hellman, in her early seventies, was demanding, exacting, infuriating--and frail, nearly blind, forgetful, and lame. As Mahoney tells Hellman's story, she also tells her own, the daughter of a physician father who committed suicide when Mahoney was a child and a schoolteacher mother who was crippled by polio and is an alcoholic.


Mahoney skillfully weaves several narratives here: a portrait of Hellman (and her literary friends, such as William Styron and John Hersey) as seen through the angry, unforgiving eyes of an uncertain college girl; a more mature understanding of Hellman's complexity, which probably included a tremendous tolerance for her idealistic, selfish employee/caregiver; and a coming-of-age story as Mahoney explores her own love and anguish for her mother.



Place Published

New York



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