Born in the 1920s to young, bohemian parents, Paula Fox was left at birth in a Manhattan orphanage. Rescued by her grandmother, Fox eventually landed with a gentle, poor minister in upstate New York. Uncle Elwood, as he came to be known, gave Paula a secure and loving home for many years, but her parents constantly re-surface. Her father is a good-looking, hard-drinking Hollywood screenwriter (among his credits is The Last Train to Madrid, which Graham Greene declared was the worst movie I ever saw), and her mother, icily glamorous, is given to almost psychotic bursts of temper that punctuate a deep, disturbing indifference. They exercise, probably without even realising it, a sort of drip-drip cruelty, a cruelty by stealth, upon Paula, as they shuttle her from one exotic place to another, from a Cuban sugar plantation to Hollywood to Montreal to Florida, from relative to relative, never spending more than a few moments with her, maybe 2 days, maybe 2 weeks, before they leave her and move on.