Thursday, May 09, 2013

New This Week: Is This Tomorrow by Caroline Leavitt

Ava Lark is a character out of time and out of place. In a Boston suburb in 1956, newly divorced Ava rents a house for herself and her 12-year-old son, Lewis. She is Jewish, a working mom, a divorcee, at a time when the combination of these things was rare and even suspicious. When Lewis’ best friend, Jimmy, goes missing, the Cold War paranoia that engulfs their neighborhood directs itself at Lewis and his mother.

The trauma of losing his friend haunts Lewis and has great impact on his life. In his 20s, he is ungrounded and failing all of his relationships. When the truth around Jimmy’s disappearance belatedly come to light, all of those whose lives were impacted by his loss must rediscover their own truths.

Caroline Leavitt’s 10th novel is a triumph of light and dark. The story at times brings to mind Dennis Lehane’s masterful Mystic River: a missing child, Boston, and the shocking darkness of the human heart, starkly glimpsed. In the end, though, Is This Tomorrow (Algonquin) is a woman’s story in a way that Mystic River never could be. And, ultimately, it begs the question: when someone goes missing, what happens to those left behind?

Though all of Leavitt’s novels have been superb and highly acclaimed, it strikes me that Is This Tomorrow is her most accomplished work. There is a sharp nuance here, one that reverberates throughout. That and lovely, vivid characterizations and superb period detail contribute to making what may be Leavitt’s best book yet. ◊

Monica Stark is a contributing editor to January Magazine. She currently makes her home on a liveaboard boat somewhere in the North Pacific.

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