In the summer of 1967, life seems almost dangerously idyllic to fifteen-year-old Grace Birch and her ten-year-old sister Franny. Their mother is Nora, a beautiful and educated woman who writes haunted love poems when she isn’t working as a law professor at the local university. Their father is David, an actor turned drama professor. As the children of independent, bohemian parents, Grace and Franny spend their days entertaining themselves and their evenings observing the delicate dance that is their parents’ relationship. David’s dedication to his craft makes him magnetic to his students, but challenges his devotion to his two young daughters and his wife.
When Ivan, a young actor, comes to stay with the family, Nora and David’s relationship faces its greatest test. David falls in love with Ivan, and Grace and Franny realize that their parents’ relationship holds an ancient and long-buried secret. Eventually, David leaves his family to follow Ivan to New York, and Nora moves with her young daughters to a run-down farm house on the outskirts of town. There, Grace and Franny befriend Susan, the daughter of Jack Leroy, a man with close but mysterious ties to their mother’s past. In the new home, Grace and Franny work to slowly reconcile their past life with their present as they grapple with their own adolescence and a mother who is slowly reinventing herself.
The Actor examines the divide between secrecy and truth and what it means to grow up on such a precipice. The novel was the runaway winner for the inaugural Meadowlark Award from Riverbend Publishing.
Beth Hunter McHugh was raised in Helena, Montana, and is a graduate of the University of Montana where she earned a B.A. in English (2006), an M.F.A in Creative Writing (2009), and an M.Ed in Curriculum and Instruction (2015). She taught writing at Bitterroot College and currently teaches English at Hamilton High School. Her work has appeared in literary magazines, including Orange Quarterly and Writing Tomorrow . She lives in Hamilton, Montana.