All the Stars in the Heavens by Adriana Trigiani
A broad, sweeping novel about the life of Hollywood star Loretta Young and her family, including her secret daughter by Clark Gable. Italian immigrant Alda Ducci leaves a convent that’s a home for unwed mothers to be personal secretary to Loretta, and moves into the family home with Loretta’s mother and sisters. A friendly priest comes to weekly dinners, and rising stars like David Nivens come to stay. Loretta, accompanied by Alda, takes the train to Mount Baker, Washington to film A Call of the Wild with Clark Gable. They’re isolated, they flirt, and later Loretta finds herself pregnant. As Clark is married and his wife won’t give him a divorce, Catholic Loretta conceals her pregnancy and later “adopts” her own daughter, Judy. There are different accounts of Clark’s and Loretta’s relationship, including one from her own daughter-in-law, but it’s very romantic in Trigiani’s account, although doomed to end, just like a tamer romance with Spencer Tracy. I found the scenes on the movie sets and in the extended family home the most appealing, and the fictional character of Alda seemed more real than some of the others. The tone of the book was very dramatic, as if the author were trying to write a screenplay for a movie Loretta starred in, but it just seemed over the top to me. Also, Loretta’s children with husband Tom Lewis are barely mentioned and are never seen. A short chapter summing up everyone’s lives and deaths seemed rushed and could have been left out. The book did make me want to learn more about Loretta and Hollywood’s Golden Age, and I might watch some more of her movies.