Ava Lark is different. She’s divorced, an unusual state of being in 1956, and one that the women at her part-time job and in her neighborhood treat as though it’s a contagious disease. And she’s Jewish, which leaves those same women feeling affronted when she declines to decorate for Christmas.

Ava struggles to believe that she deserves a happy life, even years after her husband, Brian, left her for a mistress. She blames herself for his departure, as does their son, Lewis. Ava makes his life worse, Lewis believes, by not dressing or acting like other mothers, whose fear of anyone different is only exacerbated by the Cold War. Lewis’ only solace is in his friends Rose and Jimmy, the other fatherless children on his suburban Boston street.

After 12-year-old Jimmy vanishes, his sister Rose, at age 13, joins Ava and Lewis in shouldering the blame for a loss that isn’t her fault. Rose’s mother is convinced that if Rose had been with her brother that afternoon, he would still be around. Lewis likewise regrets not meeting his friend at the appointed time on that fateful day.

Jimmy’s disappearance leaves those who were close to him questioning who they are and what they know to be true—questions that continue to haunt them years later. Both Lewis and Rose have held people at arm’s length, reluctant to let others into their lives for fear of sharing their past. Indeed, in Caroline Leavitt’s 10th novel, Is This Tomorrow, the past colors each moment in the characters’ present. As they attempt to discover what’s behind Jimmy’s disappearance and their resulting tumultuous lives, Rose, Lewis and Ava must retrace their steps to find understanding.

Leavitt’s compelling work explores how a tragedy casts a shadow—not only upon the days that immediately follow, but sometimes the rest of a life. Life isn’t always what we expect, a fact that is thoughtfully explored in this beautifully rendered tale.

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