Is This Tomorrow: A Novelby Caroline Leavitt
In 1956, Ava Lark rents a house with her twelve-year-old son, Lewis, in a desirable Boston suburb. Ava is beautiful, divorced, Jewish, and a working mom. She finds her neighbors less than welcoming. Lewis yearns for his absent father, befriending the only other fatherless kids: Jimmy and Rose. One afternoon, Jimmy goes missing. The neighborhood—in the throes
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In 1956, Ava Lark rents a house with her twelve-year-old son, Lewis, in a desirable Boston suburb. Ava is beautiful, divorced, Jewish, and a working mom. She finds her neighbors less than welcoming. Lewis yearns for his absent father, befriending the only other fatherless kids: Jimmy and Rose. One afternoon, Jimmy goes missing. The neighborhood—in the throes of Cold War paranoia—seizes the opportunity to further ostracize Ava and her son.
Years later, when Lewis and Rose reunite to untangle the final pieces of the tragic puzzle, they must decide: Should you tell the truth even if it hurts those you love, or should some secrets remain buried?
"An insightful parable about a 'complicated and uncertain era.'" The Week
"An arresting portrait of bygone America" San Francisco Chronicle
“[T]aut and resonant mystery.”Barnes & Noble Review
“Leavitt is a lovely writer and here she tells an absorbing story.”New York Daily News"Not only is [Leavitt] an incredibly accomplished novelist, she's also a crackerjack human being."The Huffington Post"Leavitt has a way of crafting the loveliest novels out of tragedy ... It's her examination of loss, grief, and disappointment that will engross readers."Booklist"This tale of domestic suspense builds to a shocking climax and will appeal to anyone immersed in suburban lore."Library Journal
“Riveting.” —Vanity Fair
"An insightful parable about a 'complicated and uncertain era.'" --The Week
"An arresting portrait of bygone America" --San Francisco Chronicle
“[T]aut and resonant mystery.”—Barnes & Noble Review
“Leavitt is a lovely writer and here she tells an absorbing story.”—New York Daily News
"Not only is [Leavitt] an incredibly accomplished novelist, she's also a crackerjack human being." —The Huffington Post
"Leavitt has a way of crafting the loveliest novels out of tragedy ... It's her examination of loss, grief, and disappointment that will engross readers." —Booklist"This tale of domestic suspense builds to a shocking climax and will appeal to anyone immersed in suburban lore." —Library Journal
- Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
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Read an Excerpt
Is This Tomorrow
By CAROLINE LEAVITT
ALGONQUIN BOOKS OF CHAPEL HILLCopyright © 2013 Caroline Leavitt
All rights reserved.
She came home to find him in her kitchen. She was in no mood, having spent the whole morning arguing with a lawyer, but there he was, her son's best friend, Jimmy Rearson, a twelve-year-old kid home from school at three on a Wednesday afternoon with too-long hair and a crush on her, reading all the ingredients on the back of a Duncan Hines Lemon Supreme cake mix, tapping the box with a finger. "Adjust temperature for high altitudes," he said, as if it really mattered. She felt a pang for him, a boy so lonely he feigned interest in how many eggs and how much sugar a cake might need. He leaned over unabashedly and turned on her radio, and there was Elvis crooning "Heartbreak Hotel," the words splashing into the kitchen.
"How'd you get in here?" Ava asked, reaching over to turn down the music. No one, except for her, locked doors in the neighborhood. She had her kid wearing a key around his neck like an amulet. Other kids were allowed to run free to wander in and out of everyone else's houses, something Ava never could quite get used to. It wasn't that she had anything to steal—truthfully, she had so much less now—but still, there was Brian, miles away, breathing down her neck with a custody threat, telling her he got a lawyer and she'd better get one, too, because he was going to file to revisit their agreement. But, in fact, she had started locking her doors the moment the movers left, two years ago, and maybe that was what made the neighborhood suspicious. "Don't you like kids? What's the matter, do you think they're going to wreck your house?" a neighbor asked, but how could she explain what she was afraid of?
"Your lock is easy," Jimmy said. "All it took was a bit of wire."
"Don't break into my house again," she said. She didn't know if she was angry or not, but she didn't like the way it sounded. Easy to break into.
"Lewis is at the dentist," she said. She had given Lewis money to take a cab (it wouldn't cost much), and by the time Lewis was finished and safely home, Ava would be at work.
"I know. He told me at school. I'm meeting him at my house later."
She nodded at the box in his hands, and then glanced at her watch. No matter what kind she bought, the mixes never turned out right. Quick and easy, the labels always said, but the cakes were always dry and powdery, and what good was quick if it was also tasteless? Well, baking was something to do, and they had some time. She didn't have to be at the plumbing company until five today. It was her day off, but she took an emergency evening shift she couldn't afford to turn down, not if she didn't want to go back to retail, which paid less, gave her fewer hours, and had no chance of advancement. It was only for an hour tonight, too, typing letters about 14K gold toilets and colored tubs that Richard, her boss, said had to be ready to go first thing in the morning, but even the small extra pay would be something she could tuck in the bank. "Want to bake?" she said, and he looked at her. "Boys don't cook," he said, abandoning the box on the counter. "Can we play checkers instead?"
"Sure. Why not," she said.
She set up the board on her dining room table, giving him the red pieces. She didn't really like checkers all that much, but she always seemed to be playing it with the kids. She would make sure they beat her so they'd feel good. Today, though, she wanted to take her mind off her problems, so she concentrated and without really meaning to, she won the game.
"Well, what do you know!" she said. She looked over at Jimmy, and then, shocked, saw that he was blinking back tears.
"Why, what's this?" she asked. "It's just a game. And you beat me every other time." She handed him a handkerchief she kept in her pocket.
He rubbed fiercely at his eyes. "I always win," he said. "I've never, ever lost."
Ava leaned forward on her elbows. "You can't win all the time," she said. "I wish you could." She thought of Brian, saw him moving on a checkerboard toward her. "King me," he'd say.
"Don't tell anyone I cried."
"Who cried? Did someone cry here?" She got up, smoothing her dress. "I have to get to work," she told him. "And you have to scoot."
They put the pieces back in the box, and then he waited at the table for her to get ready. He was in his red jersey and green plaid shorts, his Keds scribbled over with Magic Marker. He watched as she rustled around the living room, looking for her purse and the little veiled hat she sometimes wore because she thought it made her look more professional. Sweat beaded along her back. She'd wasted her whole morning and some of her afternoon running to a lawyer to talk about Brian's custody threat. It was five years since Brian had left them, barely sending money, barely calling, and even though the divorce had been his idea, all of a sudden he was telling her that she now posed a psychological and physical danger to their son. She had had to scramble to find a lawyer she could afford, a man whose name was actually, ridiculously, John Smith. He worked out of a tiny overheated office, without even a secretary, and he seemed so indifferent she wanted to shake him. "This is just nonsense, isn't it?" she said to the lawyer.
"The law is never nonsense," John Smith said.
She told the lawyer how Brian used to have a drinking problem, one that started after he left her, and that he had called her drunk a few times. She talked about how he'd abandoned his son—and her—after things at his job went bad. He hadn't even seen Lewis in nearly five years, so how could he possibly think about wanting custody now? She spilled all the details of her life, and the whole time, John Smith didn't say a thing. He just leaned back in his chair, making a tent of his fingers, waiting until she was finished, and then he shrugged.
"Circumstances change," he said. "And so do people. You said he has a full-time job, but you only work part-time, which puts him in a more stable financial situation than you. It could look like a better environment for a kid."
"You're joking. My environment is just fine."
"Is it?" He rolled his pen between his fingers. "You said he thinks you have a lot of men coming over. Can you prove you don't? Can you show that your bills are paid right on time?"
Ava thought of all the bills she kept in a shoebox, the careful way she went through them every month. She had a whole separate bank account of money she was saving so she could buy her house instead of rent it, and she made sure to put something in it every week, even if it was only ten dollars. "I have savings. I have a house."
"Correction: you rent the house. You don't own it. And banks don't like giving mortgages to women."
"But I will own it," Ava said stiffly. She thought of how hard it had been to convince the realtor to rent her the house, how he kept asking her if there was a man who could cosign the lease. She might have to fight to get a bank to give her a mortgage, but fight she would.
"But you don't own it now. And if you can't prove your finances are sound, we may have a problem. How's your son doing? Does he have friends? Is he doing all right in school?" He shuffled papers on his desk, waiting for her response, but she knew, suddenly, that he wasn't going to be able to help her, and she knew she was still going to have to pay him for his time. "You want to think about all this, Mrs. Lark," he said.
She came home, feeling sick, her head splitting like a seam. Jimmy had distracted her, but now she had to get to work, and worry hung on her like a too-heavy winter coat.
"Ava," Jimmy said, and she snapped back toward him. She felt his eyes on her, trailing her as she grabbed up her purse.
"Call me Mrs. Lark, Jimmy."
"Mrs. Lark," he said, even though they both knew there wasn't a husband around, that she was no more a Mrs. than he was. She waved her hand. "I have to get to work," she repeated.
She knew what she had to do. She had to make that company think she was good enough to hire her full-time at regular hours, with benefits, instead of just three days a week or whenever they needed her. She had to pay the bills, including the useless lawyer's bill, and the rent on this little house. It was the only one in the neighborhood that was a rental, smaller and older looking than the other homes, an anomaly that hadn't been razed when the new development had sprung up (Brookstone Family Homes!) because the owner refused to move, and by the time he died, the other houses were all built and occupied and the Brookstone company was long gone. If it hadn't been a rental and in bad shape, she'd never have been able to afford it, but because it was, she could never feel quite secure.
Ava passed by Jimmy to get to the card table, where she opened the top drawer and retrieved some of the extra pin money she kept for gas. She pocketed the money and rubbed at a smear of dirt on the wall with her thumb. Until she could afford paint, soap and water would have to do.
"Mrs. Lark." She looked over and Jimmy was shifting his weight from foot to foot, staring at her again. She was a grown woman with grown-up problems and suddenly she was in no mood for Jimmy's quiet devotion, for the way his eyes followed her around the room.
"Lewis will be home soon from the dentist," she said. "You can wait for him at your house."
Jimmy's nails were bitten and raw and she wanted to brush his hair back with her hands, wash his face with a cloth. She wanted to bend down and tie his sneaker laces tight, and wash the Magic Marker from them, bleaching the shoes until they were white again. She could see some of what he had written on his shoe: Hep cat. Cool. He was too young to be either. She pointed at his laces and watched while he did the job himself, making tight little double loops like rabbit ears.
The lawyer had asked her if Lewis had friends. Most of the other kids kept their distance, but maybe that was because Lewis was so smart. He could have been skipped ahead two grades if he didn't keep bringing home bad marks in school. The teachers kept telling her how he wasn't living up to his potential, that he kept disrupting the class with his questions. "Aren't you supposed to ask questions?" Ava had asked, and Lewis's teacher had sighed. "His job is to listen," she had told Ava.
From the time he was little, Ava had tried to make sure Lewis would be successful in life, buying him books, reading to him, teaching him to read when he was three. Education could prepare you for anything, she thought. But when she sent him off to kindergarten, it wasn't long before she got a call from his teacher. "He knows how to read," the teacher accused. She told Ava to cut it out, that Lewis being so far ahead of the other kids was bad for both him and the other students. "Everyone should be on the same page," the teacher insisted. Ava disagreed. The more you knew, the better things would be for you. She kept taking him to the library and encouraging him, and Brian even bought him a set of Collier's Encyclopedia. Every night, Lewis looked at the pictures in a volume, and read what he could. She still remembered the look on his face when, shortly before Brian had left them, and Lewis was just in first grade, Brian gave him one of his old briefcases so Lewis could carry a volume to school with him. Lewis was so proud, so excited, about learning! But she was no match for that school, or for his new school when they moved to Waltham. "The teacher told me to just do the work she gives me," Lewis said miserably. Lewis entered second grade and then third, and the teachers were calling her not because Lewis was so far ahead, but because he was behind. She had to sign his failed science paper on the solar system. "But you knew all this," she said astonished. "You told me last night what all the planets were made of," and Lewis stayed silent. She began to find half-done homework crumpled on his desk in his room, which she would carefully smooth out and put in a folder. How could he be reading The Odyssey from the library and get a D on a multiple choice test about Huck Finn? How could he read the encyclopedia every night, marking off the sections when he was done with them, regaling Ava with facts at breakfast about how there were three different kinds of volcanic eruptions and you could tell which was which just by the lava, and still fail science? It made her feel panicked, because what would become of him if he couldn't get to college? There was no family business for Lewis to go into, no money to cushion him. The thought of him having to nickel-and-dime it the way she did made her want to weep and she'd be damned if she let him join the army. With college, he could have a profession. He could be someone.
At least Jimmy and Rose seemed smart, too, and she hoped they might influence him in a good way. Lewis and Jimmy did homework together all the time, the two of them sprawling on the floor of his room. She heard him excitedly talking to Rose about The Wizard of Oz, a book they both loved. But still, Lewis brought home report cards peppered with Cs.
He had good friends, Jimmy and Rose. That was something, wasn't it? The Three Mouseketeers, they called themselves, the moniker from that Mickey Mouse Club program they all watched some days at five on her temperamental little black and white Zenith, banging on the top of the set to stop the vertical hold from swimming. Rose was the odd girl out, in more ways than one, pale as paper while the boys tanned like peanuts, her hair a pour of ink down her back, while the boys' shaggy cuts were sandy brown. Jimmy and Lewis were now in Miss Calisi's sixth-grade class at Northeast Elementary. Rose, at thirteen, went to MacArthur Junior High on Lexington Street, but different schools didn't stop them from playing together. They were always riding their bikes around the neighborhood, vinyl strips streaming out from the handlebars, a few of Ava's old playing cards snapping along the spokes. They walked to the Star Market to check out the magazines and toys. They wasted time at Brigham's, sugaring up on raspberry lime rickeys. It was a relief because she had worried so much about Lewis finding friends. "You know this isn't a Jewish neighborhood," the realtor had told Ava when he first showed her the rental house. He had tried to show her all these crummy little apartments, but she had moved twice already from apartments in Watertown. She wanted something that felt like home, something that felt like hers. She wanted a house.
She was so thrilled when Lewis had found Jimmy and Rose. Of course, they would be together, the only kids on the block without fathers and with single mothers. Ava was grateful, too, that Dot Rearson was so open-minded, and they were actually good enough friends to talk over a cup of coffee every once in a while. Dot didn't share the same prejudices as some of the other parents. Oh, Ava had heard the remarks. Divorced and Jewish, what a combo platter. "You killed Christ," one neighborhood kid had told her matter-of-factly as he ran across her front lawn, and Ava had stood there, shaken. It was awful enough that Lewis had to say the Lord's Prayer in school every morning ("Just fold your hands and shut your eyes and think about what you want to do later," she advised him), but when Lewis was in third grade, he had come home with an F on a test, and she was about to yell at him when she saw all the questions were about Christmas—about Mary, Jesus, and Joseph. Who was Jesus's mother? She had gone up to talk to Mr. Powers, the principal, but all he said to her was, "I understand your peoples' sensitivity," like it was her fault.
Well, these kids were lucky to have one another. You didn't have to be a genius to see Rose was besotted with Lewis. Ava couldn't remember how she had felt about love at thirteen, if love had ever unspooled her the way it seemed to be doing with Rose. How could you possibly feel so much when so young? Rose followed Lewis around, her head cocked as if she were waiting for him to say something to her. She looked at him as if she were breathing him in, her shoulders rising and falling. Ava knew Rose went into her room and daubed her mouth with Ava's old DuBarry lipsticks, that Rose dotted Ava's Wind Song perfume on her wrists, but Rose didn't know that Ava set them out deliberately to make them easier for Rose to find. Once, Ava had seen Rose slide up behind Lewis while he was painting a model airplane. Rose lifted up her hand and held it just above his hair, as if she were blessing him, her eyes hidden beneath the palm frond of her bangs. He hadn't noticed a thing. Ava, though, had watched and all she could think was, You poor darling.
Excerpted from Is This Tomorrow by CAROLINE LEAVITT. Copyright © 2013 Caroline Leavitt. Excerpted by permission of ALGONQUIN BOOKS OF CHAPEL HILL.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
What People are saying about this
"With wit and a perfect eye into the human heart, Caroline Leavitt has given us a truly unique story of love, loyalty, loss, betrayal, secrets, healing -- and a resolution you'll never see coming."--Sue Monk Kidd, author ofThe Secret Life of Bees
"When someone disappears, what happens to the people who are left behind? This is the central, heartbreaking question in Caroline Leavitt's exquisite new book. With characters so real they feel technicolor, a plot that beats like a racing pulse, and prose so lovely that sometimes I found myself repeating the words out loud,Is This Tomorrowis the novel you need to read today." --Jodi Picoult, New York Times bestselling author of The Storyteller and Lone Wolf
“A page-turner from first to last. I loved the way Levitt's Mad Men-like examination of shifting mid-century American values dovetails with her vivid tale of heartbreak and hope. An enthusiastic thumbs-up from this grateful reader.”
“With wit and a perfect eye into the human heart, Caroline Leavitt has given us a truly unique story of love, loyalty, loss, betrayal, secrets, healing—and a resolution, you’ll never see coming. It’s everything you want in a novel.”—Sue Monk Kidd, author of The Secret Life of Bees
“Caroline Leavitt asks the big, equivocal questions: what does it mean to be a mother, a family? What is the nature of identity? The answers will provoke you, frustrate you, rearrange your heart.” —Jacquelyn Mitchard, author of The Deep End of the Ocean and What We Saw at Night
“In her dynamite follow-up to Pictures of You, Caroline Leavitt has given us that rare and irresistible combination of tenderly crafted, richly layered and utterly believable characters—people I found myself caring about by page ten—and a crackling suspense story that just about explodes off the page.”—Joyce Maynard
“Caroline Leavitt's first historical novel, Is This Tomorrow, is a grand slam. Her attention to detail and dialogue are remarkable. The ratcheting tension as an Eisenhower era neighborhood searches for a missing boy--gripping. The resolution of the mystery years later . . . both heartbreaking and hopeful." —Lesley Kagen, New York Times bestselling author of Good Graces
“Caroline Leavitt's Is This Tomorrow is an expertly rendered novel that poignantly chronicles the aftermath of a family's worst nightmare and its far-reaching devastation. At once haunting and elegant, Is This Tomorrow will leave the reader shattered and hopeful right up to the shocking end.” —Heather Gudenkauf, author ofthe New York Times Bestseller The Weight of Silence
"I loved the way Leavitt'sMad Men-like examination of shifting midcentury American values dovetails with her vivid tale of heartbreak and hope." --Wally Lamb, author of She's Come Undone and I Know This Much Is True
Meet the Author
Caroline Leavitt is the award-winning author of eight novels. Her essays and stories have been included in New York magazine, Psychology Today, More, Parenting, Redbook, and Salon. She’s a columnist for the Boston Globe, a book reviewer for People, and a writing instructor at UCLA online.
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When I think of the 1950s I have an ideal picture of what life looked like, and impart it did. IS THIS TOMORROW by Caroline Leavitt takes place then but the ideal picture is not what life looked like for Ava and her son, Lewis. Ava was an attractive divorced woman, a Jewish woman, who worked and was raising her twelve year old son alone. Ava trying to give her son the best she could, moved him into a peaceful suburb where doors were left unlocked and the children ran free. The mother and son were outcasts, but were managing. Lewis made good friends with the widows children, Rose and Jimmy. But life became even more complicated when Jimmy goes missing. After becoming adults, Rose and Lewis reconnect trying to figure out what really did happen to Jimmy that night. What they find might just tear them apart. IS THIS TOMORROW for me was what my kids were asking, because I couldn't put this novel down! The story is so full of questions and suspense and once you get an answer there are more questions and then even more questions! I was pulled into the lives, the stories, the heartache of all the different characters. The portrayal of mother/son dynamic was fabulously written. I haven't felt so immersed in a story in some time. The change of viewpoint of a number of different characters really just grabbed a hold of me. You didn't feel the jerking of moving from one character to another, Leavitt's writing is flawless. I really had no idea what to expect as far as how the story would end, but I sat there stunned. The tragedy was so...oh wait you don't want me to spoil it for you! I was left not wanting this story to end and I am highly recommending!
There's past tense and future tense, and then there's Leavitt-tense. Leavitt-tense is when the main storyline so seamlessly intertwines with backstory that the reader can't remember how it is they have come to know these characters so deeply. All they know is that they have. Is This Tomorrow is a mystery with suspense enough. A child goes missing and his community struggles to carry on with no answers as to why or how. Were this story to include only the linear plotline, it would be as gripping. But Leavitt isn't the kind of author who goes for suspense alone. Leavitt's real strength lies in the characters. Flawed, scared and sometimes deceitful, these characters are your brother, your parents, your children, and perhaps even you. This is why Leavitt's plots can never stop at suspenseful and always move on to haunting. The 1950's setting is pitch-perfect. You can practically feel the uneven shaggy carpeting of Eve's house under your toes and taste the warming nutmeg in her pies. And you can smell the animosity that this Norman Rockwell-type community feels for a divorced Jewish mother who dares to date and has to work. Is This Tomorrow is a gem. And (hopefully) a future film.
A sixth grader disappears in broad daylight from a 1950s Boston suburb in “Is This Tomorrow” and everyone is brought to a standstill by shock, grief and suspicion. The police investigate, but not thoroughly enough for anyone’s expectations. Even divorcee, Ava Lark, comes under scrutiny, just because she is single, Jewish, working, and the missing boy (her son’s best friend) spent time at her house. Everybody that knew the missing boy, Jimmy, even in passing, is questioned without success. He seems to have vanished off the face of the earth. Neighborhood watches are organized, the woods are searched, parents walk the children back and forth to school, ‘stranger’ warnings are issued. Everyone is in denial; nobody wants to think the worst. His sister and best friend even choose to believe that Jimmy just left – that he went to a wonderful place on their ‘travel map’ – the route they had promised to take together when they got older. Time passes and people adjust to the idea that Jimmy is gone. The friends and neighbors promise never to forget, to keep looking, but to most of the world, Jimmy becomes ‘the boy who went missing.’ But, not to his sister Rose, and his best friend, Lewis. Not even to Ava. Their world has been changed forever by Jimmy’s disappearance. We observe that changed world through Ava’s eyes, and then Lewis and Rose’s, in painful and insightful ways for years after the terrible day. Leavitt explores the attitudes of society toward divorcees and the limited options available to all women in the 1950s and 1960s, truths still echoing today. In “Is This Tomorrow,” Ava struggles to make ends meet and feels adrift, loving her son, but not knowing how to help him or herself in a culture that perceives her as damaged goods. Lewis blames her for his father’s absence; Rose blames her own mother for not doing more to help herself after Jimmy goes missing. The ache is palpable. The story unfolds as the children and the adults deal with paralyzing guilt and surprising revelations, both about Jimmy and themselves. As moments in that long ago day are relived through several character’s eyes and what-if scenarios are rehashed, we see how one person’s clueless stupidity can send a ripple of destruction in every direction. Even worse, the selfish reactions to that stupidity can cause even more harm, when kept secret for so long. The children in “Is This Tomorrow” are drawn so well – their interactions, their need to belong, their missteps in social situations, their craving for an intact family. I knew kids like this in my teaching days, listened to their stories. While the topics discussed are challenging and serious, there is growth and change in circumstances, as well as triumph along the way in this memorable novel. Well done, Ms. Leavitt. (Review by Patti Phillips)
Divorced, mother, and a Jew in 1954 are all working against Ava Lark. She moves to Boston with her son Lewis and he becomes friends with a brother and sister, Jimmy and Rose. One afternoon Jimmy goes missing. The neighbors turn on Rose and Lewis. Rose and her mother, Dottie, move away leaving Lewis friendless. Years later Rose and Lewis reconnect and go about solving the mysteries of their childhood. Will these secrets keep them together or tear their lives apart? Is This Tomorrow is a mystery with a lot of suspense. The suspense made me keep reading but the mystery of Jimmy’s disappearance kept me up late at night. Caroline Leavitt made characters that I could relate to and care about. I wanted to live next to Ava and Lewis so I could be her friend, a friend she desperately needed. Lewis needs someone to keep an eye on him when Ava was working. I could have been that person. I would have been there for Jimmy and then his family. While reading I was lost in the neighborhood seeing myself living there. I wonder what they would be doing now. How their lives have turned out. Did they move past Jimmy’s disappearance, but never forgetting? This novel shows how people’s prejudices against others can affect their lived. It shows the strength and determination a mother can have and how she can give her family the best life and succeed. I high recommend this amazing novel.
I read Caroline Leavitt's best selling and critically acclaimed novel Pictures of You a few years ago and became so invested in her characters and story, I couldn't wait to see what she would write next. It was worth the wait because Is This Tomorrow is a knockout of a novel. Ava Lark is a divorcee with a twelve-year-old son Lewis. They move to a small suburb near Boston in 1956, where a divorced woman, not to mention a Jewish divorced woman, is looked upon with suspicion. The only friend she has is a widow, Dot, who has two children Jimmy and Rose. Jimmy, Rose and Lewis are best friends, and Jimmy has a little crush on Ava. Ava is kind to Jimmy and Rose, but when Jimmy goes missing, people (including the police) focus their attention on Ava and the many men (six) she has dated over the past three years. While the framework of the missing boy propels the storyline, it is the characters of Ava and Lewis who are the heart of this story. Rather than a typical mystery novel, this beautiful book is about what it feels like to be an outsider. Ava is lonely; the women she works with leave her out of their social activities and the neighborhood women fear that the beautiful Ava will steal their husbands. She dates a musician, and planned to introduce him to Lewis on the day that Jimmy disappeared. The boyfriend asks Ava to move away with him, but she cannot do that to Lewis. He is devastated by the disappearance of his best friend, and he and Rose spend all their time trying to find out what happened to Jimmy. Leavitt clearly did a lot of research of the time period. I felt totally immersed in the atmosphere of that time- the fear of Communism, the food they ate, the clucking about Ava being a working woman, the way the neighborhood kids played outside without adult supervision. The second half of the book moves forward in time, and we see Lewis working as a nurse aide. I just fell in love with Lewis, and my heart ached so much for him. He struggles to find his place in this world, to find someone to love and share his life, but is difficult to get beyond his past. The mystery of what happens to Jimmy is solved, and how it is solved comes as a shock to many people, myself included. Leavitt writes beautifully and her turn of phrase really caught my eye. As Lewis gets older, he no longer gives Ava a kiss goodnight."I forgot," he'd tell her in the morning, but he forgot to kiss her more and more, and she found herself collecting those losses like debts that might never be paid." When Lewis begins to meet his coworkers at a weekly bowling game, he thinks about how little he really knows his friends."It made him wonder how well he really knew John or Mick, or when you thought about it, how well they knew him. When he talked, he shot the breeze about the hospital or Madison. It was all casual, loose as pocket change that never adds up to anything."I think most people at one time or another have felt like an outsider, and so can relate to Ava and Lewis. Leavitt taps into those feelings of loneliness, and brings these characters to vivid life. We feel for Lewis and are grateful that we don't face the uncertainty that Dot and Rose feel when Jimmy is missing. It is said that good fiction makes the reader empathetic; if that is true, then Is This Tomorrow is great fiction, for my heart ached for all of the people in this terrific novel, an Indie Next Pick for May.
The opening pages of Is This Tomorrow? took me back to my childhood neighborhood, my chums on my street, the adults who cared about us, the 1950s in general. Images of clothing, household furnishings, and transportation are described in detail and with clarity. Caroline Leavitt is an author whose writing I have previously enjoyed, and this was no exception. Ava, a Jewish divorcee, doesn't fit into the neighborhood's demographics. Raising a son on her own doesn't make life any easier. Yet the children in the neighborhood find Ava's home a welcome spot to visit. Harmless and loving, Ava treats them all the same. The tragedy in the story is the reason behind some of the children's visits to Ava's--something is lacking at home. Leavitt, I believe, points out clearly a turning in our society in the 1950s and 1960s to the busyness of the parental component and a loss for our children leaving them seeking a place of acceptance and comfort. And so begins the story of Jimmy, a boy who goes missing on this quiet neighborhood street. A variety of suspicions arise, similar to those we hear on the news today, and Ava finds herself caught up in the middle of the whirling minds of her neighbors. Jimmy was best friends with Ava's son, Lewis, and both are deeply affected by Jimmy's disappearance. Jimmy's sister, Rose, forms an alliance with Lewis and they promise each other they will find Jimmy. What follows is a page-turning, well written story of mystery, intrigue, and modern-day profiling. Leavitt never lets her readers down, and she once again amazes with the story's ending. Recommendation: Fans of Leavitt will likely have read Is This Tomorrow? or will pick it up out of habit. Those who haven't read Leavitt before should make this one of their first Leavitt reads. Mystery lovers, aficionados of the 1950s and 1960s, and those who love good stories well told will enjoy Is This Tomorrow? Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. The opinions expressed are solely mine.
A riveting story. Well written and maintains attention.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The character development is excellent, and the plot kept me wanting to read. I also liked that all loose ends were realistically tied up. I highly recommend it.
I thought the explanation of what happened was bizare and not believable at all.
Would you recremend this book to a young teen?
I enjoyed reading this book, although it was quite dark at the beginning. The characters were well drawn and I wanted to find out what was going to happen. The end was a bit disappointing as I felt like the writing became perfunctory in an attempt to quickly explain what happened. Some parts of the explanations were unlikely occurrences and the enlightenment of one of the main characters was not quite believable given the set of circumstances presented.
Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings Set in 1956 with a central character that is living life definitely against the grain in the current time - a divorced single mom who is in the workforce and trying to raise her son in suburbia. One would say this could be historical fiction and I may agree because it is definitely not completely contemporary, but I enjoyed reading a story where I could imagine a woman getting heat for her lifestyle, it could compare to current social issues in the news. Her son's best friend goes missing and the story takes off after that!
So refreshing to read a great story with good character development and interesting plot twists. I especially like that it was not focused on romance