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.Read more...
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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?
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2013-05-27
- Reviewer: Staff
Few events are as tragic as the loss of a child, especially when the circumstances are unclear. In Leavitt's story of 1950's suburbia, discord strikes when divorced working mother Ava Lark moves in. Although the neighborhood closes ranks against Ava, her 12-year old son Lewis finds two friends: Jimmy and Rose, siblings marginally more acceptable because their father is dead. When Jimmy dis-appears, a neighborhood gripped by the paranoia of the era mobilizes to search for Jimmy, but there are those who suspect Ava since Jimmy frequented her home. Already yearning for his father, Lewis withdraws into himself as Jimmy fails to materialize, and abandonment is complete when Rose and her mother move away. An eight-year temporal leap finds Lewis working at a hospital in a different state and Rose teaching elementary school, though neither remain in contact. Leavitt (Pictures of You), known for her ability to plumb the depths of human emotions, reveals the far-reaching effects of Jim-my's disappearance on the entire character of the neighborhood. Her real strength lies in her portrayal of grief's many manifestations in those most closely affected: Lewis, Rose, and the two mothers. Leavitt demonstrates through Lewis and Rose that without closure, the grief remains dormant yet re-tains its power. (May)
A child disappears behind the 1950s suburban facade
Ava Lark is different. She’s divorced, an unusual state of being in 1956, and one that the women at her part-time job and in her neighborhood treat as though it’s a contagious disease. And she’s Jewish, which leaves those same women feeling affronted when she declines to decorate for Christmas.
Ava struggles to believe that she deserves a happy life, even years after her husband, Brian, left her for a mistress. She blames herself for his departure, as does their son, Lewis. Ava makes his life worse, Lewis believes, by not dressing or acting like other mothers, whose fear of anyone different is only exacerbated by the Cold War. Lewis’ only solace is in his friends Rose and Jimmy, the other fatherless children on his suburban Boston street.
After 12-year-old Jimmy vanishes, his sister Rose, at age 13, joins Ava and Lewis in shouldering the blame for a loss that isn’t her fault. Rose’s mother is convinced that if Rose had been with her brother that afternoon, he would still be around. Lewis likewise regrets not meeting his friend at the appointed time on that fateful day.
Jimmy’s disappearance leaves those who were close to him questioning who they are and what they know to be true—questions that continue to haunt them years later. Both Lewis and Rose have held people at arm’s length, reluctant to let others into their lives for fear of sharing their past. Indeed, in Caroline Leavitt’s 10th novel, Is This Tomorrow, the past colors each moment in the characters’ present. As they attempt to discover what’s behind Jimmy’s disappearance and their resulting tumultuous lives, Rose, Lewis and Ava must retrace their steps to find understanding.
Leavitt’s compelling work explores how a tragedy casts a shadow—not only upon the days that immediately follow, but sometimes the rest of a life. Life isn’t always what we expect, a fact that is thoughtfully explored in this beautifully rendered tale.