03 May 2013

Imprint Friday: Is This Tomorrow by Caroline Leavitt

Welcome to Imprint Friday and today's featured imprint: Algonquin Books. Stop by each week to be introduced to a must-read title from one of my favorite imprints. I know you'll be adding many of these books to your wish list.

Two years ago I couldn't stop talking about Caroline Leavitt's novel Pictures of You. When I received a copy of her newest book (released on Tuesday), I was both excited to read it and hesitant. What if my expectations were too high? I've just finished reading Is This Tomorrow, and it is everything and more that I hoped for.

Here is the publisher's summary:

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?
I'm not sure this blurb does justice to Leavitt's strong and moving novel because it leaves you with the impression that Is This Tomorrow focuses on a mystery. It doesn't. It's really an examination of life on the edges of society and how it affects one's ability to love and trust. Although both Ava and Lewis are marginalized, they do not share the same problems.

Ava is everything threatening to her all-American neighborhood: she's smart, pretty, Jewish, and divorced. The women wonder what she did to drive her man away, and the men wonder if the stories about gay divorcees are true. To make matters worse, she works and leaves her son alone in the afternoons.

Lewis is a bookish and smart boy who, according to his teachers, asks too many questions. He is disliked by everyone for knowing too much, for not having a father, for not being particularly athletic, and for being a Jew.

Through the years, at work and at home and in relationships, mother and son never truly fit in. They long for love and for someone who will accept them for who they are, but they've been hurt and abandoned one too many times to fully give themselves to a lover. The questions Leavitt explores are if and how Ava and Lewis can find happiness and a comfortable place in a world that doesn't fully accept them.

One of the things I love about Is This Tomorrow is that the more I think about it, the more I find to talk about. Leavitt wrote a multilayered story that is complex yet tightly plotted. I could write paragraphs about how the book approaches women's issues in the postwar decades. Other themes are living with unanswered questions, accepting that you can't always protect the people you love, keeping secrets, self-discovery, relationships, parenting, and family. With all these great discussion topics, I'm sure Is This Tomorrow will be a popular choice for smart book clubs this summer.

I am forever impressed by Leavitt's ability to create realistic characters. Although Ava, Lewis, and the other characters are changed by their experiences, they behave consistently and believably throughout the book. They are multidimensional and are motivated by the same things that would motivate any of us. For example, Ava thinks of her son first and foremost but tries not to lose herself in the process. That she sometimes misses the mark is only human.

Lewis, often caught in the middle of everything, matures into a self-reliant young man. His choices, however, are clearly influenced by the experiences of his youth. We ache for him and hope he finds everything he deserves.

Caroline Leavitt's Is This Tomorrow will leave an indelible mark on you. Long after you finish the novel, you'll be thinking about Ava and Lewis and what life offered them. What, if anything, would you have done differently?

Algonquin Books is a featured imprint on Beth Fish Reads. For more information about the imprint, please read Executive Editor Chuck Adams's introductory letter, posted here on January 7, 2011. Don't forget to follow Algonquin on Twitter and Facebook and read their blog (where you can sign up for the Algonquin newsletter).

Buy Is This Tomorrow at an indie or at a bookstore near you. (Link leads to an affiliate program.)
Published by Workman / Algonquin Books 2013
ISBN-13: 9781616200541

Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy).


Sandy Nawrot 5/3/13, 6:51 AM  

I never did get to Pictures of You, even though I wanted to. This one sounds just as intriguing! It had to have been so hard to live like that back then. Even as recently as when I was growing up in IN, there were people living on the fringe of our community.

bookspersonally 5/3/13, 7:04 AM  

I love a novel that leaves you thinking about it long after you're done. I, too, didn't get to her first book, but am determined to read this one. Both sound lovely.

rhapsodyinbooks 5/3/13, 7:19 AM  

This sounds maybe depressing?

Beth Hoffman 5/3/13, 9:21 AM  

I'm so eager to read Caroline's newest offering. Love the cover.

Daryl 5/3/13, 9:38 AM  

adding it to the pile, thanks

The Relentless Reader 5/3/13, 9:56 AM  

Another book to add to the wish list :) Thanks!!

Heather 5/3/13, 10:08 AM  

I keep meaning to try one of Leavitt's books. I have Pictures of You, so I may start there, but this one sounds really really good too. Ack! Decisions are so hard.

bermudaonion 5/3/13, 3:48 PM  

I really liked Pictures of You so suspect I'd like this one too. I love the fact that it's multilayered and thought provoking.

chrisa511 5/4/13, 3:38 AM  

Yep…another one going on the wishlist that you'll be getting a point for soon ;)

(Diane) bookchickdi 5/4/13, 10:02 AM  

I stayed up late last night finishing this incredible book. Lewis and Ava are characters that will stay with me for a very long time. I so agree with your insightful review.

caite 5/5/13, 1:59 PM  

There is always a bit of concern with reading the next book by an author you like isn't there? Will it be as good..will it disappoint...glad you enjoyed it.

Michele 5/7/13, 10:33 PM  

Love the idea of this novel, although I'm thinking I need to read her previous novel first. This deep, dark family secret thing is becoming an overwhelmingly common theme in books, although if done right it does indeed stick with you a long time.

Julie P. 5/10/13, 8:31 AM  

I loved PICTURE OF YOU and can't wait to read (listen to) this one!

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