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Is This Tomorrow: A Novel Paperback – May 7, 2013
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Leavitt has a way of crafting the loveliest novels out of tragedy. Like its predecessor, Pictures of You (2011), her latest work, set mainly in the 1950s, turns on a single fateful incident: the disappearance of 12-year-old Jimmy Rearson. Though Leavitt eventually reveals what happened to Jimmy, in a closure that provides little in the way of solace, it’s her examination of loss, grief, and disappointment that will engross readers. Lewis, Jimmy’s best friend, is already an angry loner, a child of divorce in a time and place where his mother, Ava, is viewed as a challenge to the natural order. Without Jimmy as a tether, he drifts aimlessly into adulthood. Rose, Jimmy’s sister, is paralyzed by survivor’s guilt: to move on without her brother feels tantamount to betrayal. The aching loneliness of these two is palpable. But Leavitt’s most captivating creation is the mercurial Ava, an accidental trailblazer who refuses to deny her dreams. It is Ava, ultimately, who points the way forward, showing there’s no shame in putting ghosts to rest. --Patty Wetli
Stewart O'Nan, author of Emily, Alone and The Odds
"When a 12-year-old boy disappears from his suburban Boston neighborhood, ripples spread. The mystery is set up early, so there is plenty of time to get involved and invested in characters you care about, or are distrustful of, or ones whose motives you question. The overwhelming arc of the story is for these characters you come to feel protective of to get beyond the tragedy. How can you get to tomorrow when time is forever stuck on one tragic day? You want them to find their tomorrows. And thanks to great writing, I was pulling for them all the way."Candace Purdom, Anderson's Bookshop
"In the spirit of Richard Yates' novel Revolutionary Road, Caroline Leavitt peels back the neat façade of suburban life in the 1950s to uncover the ways in which the demands of conformity leave a trail of loneliness and pain for those who lie outside its bounds. Blending taut suspense with deeply moving portrayals of fierce parental love, childhood friendships and first crushes, Leavitt has created a novel with haunting characters and much to say about how we move through tragedy. "Libby Cowles, Maria's Bookshop
Leavitt has a way of crafting the loveliest novels out of tragedy. Like its predecessor, Pictures of You (2011), her latest work, set mainly in the 1950s, turns on a single fateful incident: the disappearance of 12-year-old Jimmy Rearson. It's her examination of loss, grief, and disappointment that will engross readers. But Leavitt's most captivating creation is the mercurial Ava, an accidental trailblazer who refuses to deny her dreams. It is Ava, ultimately, who points the way forward, showing there's no shame in putting ghosts to rest. -- Patty Wetli, Boolist
"Arresting, skillful, magical. Leavitt's wonderful narrative works as almost a parable for that complicated and uncertain era, teaching and warning her readers even as she entertains them."
Kathryn Lang, The Boston Globe
Mary Polis, MSN Entertainment Page Turner
"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
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Top Customer Reviews
Ava moves her son, Lewis, to the suburbs in the 1950s. She rents a house in a "perfect" neighborhood to provide him with safety and friends. The neighborhood teems with children. But Ava is immediately an outsider: she's too pretty, she has curves, the husbands dance too closely with her, she has a job outside the home because she is a single DIVORCED parent. There is a reason DANGER and DIVORCE both start with D. Now add that she's (don't say it too loud), um, Jewish.
Her son Lewis is a loner because Ava is his mother, because he's too smart, and his teachers wish he wouldn't ask so many questions. Like Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird, he and Ava are scolded for his reading too well in the early grades.
Lewis and his mom make friends with the kids, Rose and Jimmy, from across the street. Then one day Jimmy disappears. The neighborhood draws together at first to find the culprit,to destroy the danger. Then they drift apart in hopelessness and change.
But people still look at Ava funny, as if she brought this evil down upon them.
Decades pass. We learn more about the hopes and dreams of Ava, Rose, Lewis. We are led to reconsider how Jimmy disappeared as new clues emerge.
But at the heart of the story, we want to see how and if Ava, Lewis, and Rose can make happiness and peace in an imperfect world called reality. There is no perfect place. Life is a rocky road.
IS THIS TOMORROW revisits the iconic "peaceful" fifties and the turbulent sixties with love and an eye toward truth. Leavitt asks her reader to take off those rose-colored glasses about the "old days" to see what life was like behind the white picket fences. Ozzie and Harriet, the Cleavers, and Father Knows Best stereotyped the American household on television. Leavitt goes beyond pie in the sky to give us a taste of bitter with the sweet.
In 1956, in the suburbs of Boston, young divorcée Ava Lark is struggling to make it. She and her 12-year-old son, Lewis, are the only Jewish family in the neighborhood (and their neighbors don't hesitate to share their Jewish stereotypes), and one of only two families living without a man, although the other family lost their patriarch when he died unexpectedly. Ava dreams of a better life for her and her son--she wants to be financially stable enough to buy the house in which they live; she wants a steady job, a happy son, friends, and romance. Yet none of it seems to go her way.
Twelve-year-old Lewis isn't quite aware of his mother's struggles, but he wishes she were more like the other mothers in the neighborhood. He wishes his father would return, or at least take him away from his life. His only solace are his two best friends, Jimmy and his older sister, Rose. The three are inseparable--the self-titled Three Musketeers--and share nearly everything, although there are times when Jimmy and Lewis exclude Rose, and Rose struggles with her feelings for Lewis, who is oblivious to how she feels. The two boys dream of escaping their hometown, and have a map on which their entire future route is planned.
One afternoon, Jimmy disappears. No one knows what happened to him, but the neighborhood--in the heart of the Cold War and fears of communism--suspects everyone. Ava's life becomes scrutinized and criticized even more, her every romantic relationship open to suspicion, even the fact that Jimmy had a crush on her. For Rose and Lewis, Jimmy's disappearance turns their lives around in so many ways. Both believe he is still alive, and vow to find him, no matter how long it takes.
Year later, Rose and Lewis finally are able to solve the puzzle around Jimmy's disappearance. But they discover that while solving a mystery may bring some closure, it opens up more questions, and feelings they were never prepared to address. And these questions have ramifications into their relationships with others, including Lewis' relationship with both of his parents.
Caroline Leavitt is a fantastic writer, and I loved her earlier book, Pictures of You. She has an amazing ability to show how one tragic action--in this case, Jimmy's disappearance--has powerful ramifications for so many people for so long. While at first, I wondered why Leavitt spent so much time dwelling on Ava's character when she wasn't even the focus of the story, I realized later how the choices she and those around her made really did have an impact on everyone else.
Leavitt has a very straight-forward style. She cuts to the heart of emotions and situations without forcing you to wade through a lot of hyperbole, but her words have real power. Her depiction of 1950s and 1960s America, and the moods of everyday citizens during that time. While I felt the story took a little bit to gain momentum, I found Lewis and Rose's characters so fascinating and so tragic, and would love to know what happened to them after the book ended. (And Ava could have her own side story, focused on her adventures at the end of the book.) This was a terrific story that really moved me.
If you've never read Caroline Leavitt before, add her to your list. You'll be glad you did!
This sums up my feelings about Caroline Leavitt's bestselling novel, IS THIS TOMORROW. While there is one tragic event, this is a delightful read in so many ways. The author captures the 1950's wonderfully, bringing back memories I'd long forgotten. Thoughts about Communism in that day made me laugh.
The characters in this story come with baggage but that's what held my interest. Each is solid and intriguing, revealing layer upon layer of themselves as we learn more and more about them. For me, Ava is one of my all-time literary favorites. The battles she fights, large and small, encouraged me. I especially love the line, "Why was she always the one waiting, her life full of maybes."
"Tell me why you left us" -- this question, for me, was like a cannon going off. The whole novel has been about this moment, this question and many of the characters could have asked it -- Ava, Lewis, Rose, Dot, Jake.
This is a story well-told and it picks up the pace as it heads toward its conclusion which took me by surprise. I really loved this novel.
Joyce Norman, author