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Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Missing Boy Shatters Illusions of Perfect 1950s Suburbia in Moving Is This Tomorrow

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

When Ava Lark's husband abandons her and their young son, she has no choice but to move on.  Waltham, a working-class Boston suburb, seems like a soft place to land while she licks her wounds.  It's the kind of neighborhood where doors are never locked and kids roam freely between neighbors' houses.  It's seems like the perfect place to raise 7-year-old Lewis.  And it probably would be if his mother wasn't an unapologetic divorceé and a Jew to boot.  While Ava's shunned by the other moms, Lewis finds acceptance with the only other fatherless kids on the block—Jimmy and Rose Rearson.  The three misfits become close pals, so close that when 12-year-old Jimmy vanishes in 1956, it rocks his two best friends to the core.  The entire neighborhood is shocked by the boy's disappearance, especially as the weeks drag on with no clue as to his whereabouts.  Suspicion naturally falls on Ava, on whom Jimmy had an obsessive schoolboy crush.  Ava's shocked to find herself being treated as a suspect—she felt sorry for her son's lonely best friend and is as anxious as everyone else to have him home, safe and sound.

Jimmy's disappearance continues to haunt both Ava and Lewis.  In 1963, the latter is still trying to find his way in life.  At 18, Lewis works as a nurse's assistant in Madison, Wisconsin.  It's satisfying work, but he still feels lonely and adrift.  When he receives a disturbing update about Jimmy's disappearance, he's thrown back to his turbulent childhood in Waltham.  Reuniting with Rose, Lewis sets out to find out some truths about the past.  The answers are almost more than he can bear.  Now, he has to decide whether to seek justice for his missing friend or let old secrets lie.  

Although Is This Tomorrow by Caroline Leavitt isn't exactly a light, summer read, it is a compelling one.  With a cast of realistically flawed (although not overly likable) characters, a vivid historical setting and a probing mystery, it's got the makings of a fine suspense novel.  Unfortunately, sloppy copy editing as well as some sagging in the middle of the story distract from an otherwise well-written tale. Is This Tomorrow needs some tightening, true, but, in the end, I enjoyed this moving novel about friendship, family and the power of forgiveness.     

(Readalikes:  Reminded me Lesley Kagen's books, Whistling in the Dark and Good Graces)

Grade:  B-

If this were a movie, it would be rated:  R for strong language (a handful of F-bombs, plus milder invectives), references to illegal drug use and sexual content

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of Is This Tomorrow from the generous folks at Algonquin Books via those at BookSparks PR.  Thank you!

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