Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Review: Is This Tomorrow (Audio)

Summary: It’s 1956, and working-mother Ava Lark and her son, Lewis, have rented a house in a less-than-welcoming Boston suburb. There, Lewis finds he is only able to befriend the other fatherless kids on the block, Jimmy and Rose. But when Jimmy goes missing, neighborhood paranoia ramps to new heights, further ostracizing Ava and Lewis.

Lewis never recovers from the loss of his childhood friend. In his twenties, he is a failure in love, living without direction, estranged from his mother. When Jimmy’s disappearance is unexpectedly solved, however, Lewis, Rose, and Ava are thrown together once more to try to untangle the remaining pieces of the puzzle and reclaim something of what they have lost. -- Algonquin

A few years ago, I reviewed PICTURES OF YOU by Caroline Leavitt and absolutely adored it. Since then, I've had the chance to meet Ms. Leavitt a few times at BEA; and of course, she is always on Twitter and/or Facebook so I feel as if I kind of "know" her if that makes sense. I've been looking forward to her latest novel IS THIS TOMORROW for what seems like a long time, and I'm thrilled to say that it was released a few months ago. Although part of me wanted to actually read Ms. Leavitt's prose, this time around, I decided to listen to the audio version of IS THIS TOMORROW.

Once again, I was extremely impressed with Ms. Leavitt's writing and her ability to bring to life some extremely complex characters. In IS THIS TOMORROW, she manages to touch upon some serious issues including dysfunctional families, prejudice, grief, and guilt. I found that this novel wasn't always easy to listen to because some of the characters were so sad; however, ultimately, it was about the strength of the human spirit.

IS THIS TOMORROW begins in the mid 1950s when Ava and her son Lewis move to a house in the Boston suburbs. Not only are the neighbors suspicious because Ava doesn't have a husband, but they also show some signs of prejudice since the family is Jewish. Lewis struggles to fit in with the other children and eventually he finds friends in Jimmy and Rose, two children who are also fatherless. One day, after visiting Ava, Jimmy goes missing; and the neighbors begin to ostracize Ava and Lewis even more than before.

Needless to say, members of both families, especially Lewis and Rose, are deeply affected by the loss of Jimmy; and their lives become even more out of sorts. Lewis feels even more alienated from his mother and the other kids at school, while Rose moves to Pittsburgh with her mother. Lewis and Rose lose touch with each other and are forced to deal with their grief on their own.

The book then moves forward seven years, when Lewis and Rose are in the twenties and shows just how much these two are still being haunted by what happened to Jimmy. When Jimmy and Rose eventually meet up again and discover the truth behind what happened to Jimmy, their lives become more complicated as they realize they have feelings for each other and they try to accept the consequences of knowing the truth.

IS THIS TOMORROW is a beautifully written story and it touched me deeply. Ms. Leavitt has an uncanny knack to make her characters, and especially the pain they feel, to just jump off the pages (or in this case, my iPod!) I admit that this book was a difficult read for me because of the subject matter -- heck, who wants to read about a missing kid and the effect it had on loved ones?; however, I put my faith in her hands and knew she wouldn't disappoint. And guess what? She didn't! This novel not only entertained me and kept me guessing about what happened to Jimmy, but it also touched my heart and made me see how resilient certain individuals can be.

I especially appreciated how Ms. Leavitt explored the theme of loss. Naturally, this novel explored the loss of Jimmy as seen through the eyes of Lewis, Rose, Ava (Lewis' mother), and even Jimmy's mother. However, it also explored all sorts of loss from the loss Lewis and Rose felt from not having fathers to the loss Ava felt from her husband leaving her. Furthermore, there were other kinds of loss that took place in this novel too including Ava's emotional loss of Lewis as well as the losses she experienced each time a relationship didn't work out for her.

I mentioned earlier that I listened to the audio book version of IS THIS TOMORROW and I thought it was extremely well done. The novel was read by Xe Sands, and I thought she did an outstanding job of capturing the essence of each character. The story was extremely enjoyable to listen to, and I wouldn't hesitate to search out another book read by this narrator.

IS THIS TOMORROW would make a wonderful book club selection. There are quite a few issues, along with the characters' actions, that I think are discussion -worthy. Some of the themes you might want to explore include life in the 1950s, parent/child relationships, bigotry, loss, grief, acceptance, forgiveness, guilt, second chances, and redemption.

I thoroughly enjoyed IS THIS TOMORROW, but quite honestly, I expected nothing less of a Caroline Leavitt novel. Recommended for fans of women's fiction and stories about loss.

Thanks to HighBridge for providing a review copy of this audio book.


Beth F said...

I knew you'd love this one. Leavitt really captures a mood and her characters always seem so real.

bermudaonion said...

Wow, now I'm wondering what happened to Jimmy. I listened to my first XE Sands narration recently and I was very impressed too.

Stacie said...

I have this book too. Sounds like I need to get to it soon. Great review!