When Nora Johnson was a child, her parents divorced and moved to opposite ends of America, plunging the future novelist into a rootless existence that would haunt her writing for decades to come.
Her father was famous and his life brimmed with celebrities and the glitter of Hollywood. Her mother was outgoing, given to throwing cocktail parties and at ease in the cosmopolitan air of Manhattan.
But even amid such glamour, Johnson said she was swept along by an undercurrent of loneliness and dislocation.
“If I went out to Romanoff’s with them and Groucho was there and the Bogarts and Coop and Rocky and all the rest,” she wrote in her memoir “Coast to Coast.” “I’d just be...