On one fateful night, 13-year-old Pearl becomes both a mother and a killer. Picked up by a cop while on the wrong side of town, Pearl caves to his advances and then accidentally shoots him as he takes his post-coital exit. Pearl's son Leonard comes along just short of nine months later, and his youth is spent dodging the law alongside his mother until, one day, it finally catches up with her.
Except no one knows what happened to Pearl. She simply dropped off her precocious son with their neighbor, Mitch, on her way to work one morning and was never heard from again. And so 25-year-old Mitch finds himself saddled not only wih his computer business and his risky affair with the mayor's wife, but also the sole responsibility for a five-year-old boy. Leonard is no ordinary child. Eerily intelligent, he has a severe degenerative disease that threatens his eyesight. Yet Leonard's poor vision is countered by his perceptive heart. A firm believer in forever love (the idea that our loved ones never really leave us), Leonard routinely sees Pearl in a candle flame or a bird or a raindrop. Mitch is soon totally enamored of his new charge, unable to imagine life without Leonard. When social services splits them up, both Leonard and Mitch must re-evaluate their relationship, and they discover the many permutations of family in their search to uncover the mystery of Pearl's disappearance.
As in her bestseller Pay It Forward (made into a movie staring Helen Hunt and Kevin Spacey), Catherine Ryan Hyde takes a tiny story and makes it feel epic. Narration flips between Mitch, Pearl, five-year-old Leonard and a teenaged Leonard to create a cacophony of unique voices in a haunting story about the power of love. Iris Blasi is a writer in New York City.