Divorce is awful. Divorce is hard. Divorce can destroy a person. Now, add in struggling as a single-working mom to raise a son. Did we mention the time period--1956. Are you interested yet? Well, you should be because this is just the beginning of Caroline Leavitt's Is This Tomorrow. These issues are nothing compared to what will happen next. If you aren't hooked by the first chapter of Is This Tomorrow, keep reading, because by the third, you won't be able to put this book down.
As you continue to read Is This Tomorrow, you quickly realize that none of the issues previously mentioned are really the central theme. The real theme of this story is one of loss: the loss of a friend, the loss of a brother, the loss of a child. We can't imagine the pain of losing a child. This, in our opinion, is the worst thing that can happen to a family. It is the type of loss that a family is often unable to recover from. In fact, this reviewer has to admit, since becoming a parent, we shy away from such story lines, but we are glad we didn't let this stop us from reading Is This Tomorrow. In our opinion, this is a cautionary tale. What unfolds after Lewis' best friend, Jimmy, disappears impacts those closest to him: His mother, Dot; his sister, Rose; his best friend, Lewis; and Lewis' mother, Ava. All of whom, bear the scares of Jimmy's disappearance. For the next ten years each struggles to overcome this loss. Each must strive to make peace with this tragic event. In the end, you'd think finding out what really happened to Jimmy would heal them, but sometimes knowing is worse than not knowing.
Caroline Leavitt's character development is sharp. Ava Lark, the divorced mother of Lewis, is the character we were most drawn to, the author's description of her allowed us to easily conjure Ava up in our minds-eye, not to mention, we cared about her as if she were real flesh and blood. Ava is someone you'd like to be friends with, but friends are something Ava lacks in the stuffy world of the late 1950s suburbia. Her world severely limits Ava, but she never gives up. She has a good cry in the privacy of her bedroom, and wakes up the next day to try again. As a reader, you are rooting for her, you want her to make it. At times you wonder if all the forces working against her will allow her to succeed. Just keep reading. Ava's journey of self-discovery is amazing. From rummaging around in her neighbor's trashcans for aluminum to recycle in the wee hours of the morning, so she can make ends meat, to developing a hidden talent for baking, Ava continues to surprise the reader right up until the final pages of the novel. Is This Tomorrow is not a novel with a fairy-tale ending. Don't look for a prince charming in this story, but keep reading you will be well rewarded with a satisfying ending that is unexpected, yet realistic.
You know a book is good when you continue to think about it long after the last page has been turned. Is This Tomorrow is such a book. After finishing the novel you can't help, but think about the characters. Your sorrow for their loss is real. Your emotional investment in Caroline Leavitt's novel can't be helped, and again you will be well rewarded. As a reader, dealing with the "What if this happened to me?" question can be a bit squeamish, but as we all know, good storytelling takes us out of our comfort zone, which is exactly what this novel does. Is This Tomorrow is a tale of how fate can allow all the right circumstances to converge together to create a situation that results in a tragic loss, and the reader can't help but feel on some level, "There, but for the grace of God, go I."
We want to thank Algonquin Books and Net Gallery for providing us with an ARC (Advanced Readers Copy) of Is This Tomorrow by Caroline Leavitt. As always, Algonquin continues to publish the best and the brightest writers. We are never disappointed after reading a book published by this house.
Is This Tomorrow
by Caroline Leavitt (Goodreads Author)
Things You Can Read
Believe In Truth, Beauty, Freedom, Love, and the Power of Books!