I loved Caroline Leavitt’s previous novel, the New York Times bestselling Pictures of You, so I was excited when her new one came out. It did not disappoint, and I enjoyed it even more than the last one.
Set in suburban Massachusetts in the 1950s, it’s the story of Ava, a beautiful, divorced mother of a 12-year-old boy named Lewis. They’re the only Jewish family in their small town, a place of Eisenhower Cold War paranoia where anybody who’s “different” provokes suspicion. When Lewis’ friend and classmate, Jimmy, goes missing, the neighbors shun Ava entirely. The fact that she has a jazz musician for a boyfriend doesn’t help, and when he breaks off their relationship Ava is more isolated than ever.
But the novel is very much about Lewis too and how he tries to cope over the years with his friend Jimmy’s disappearance as well as his father’s disinterest. All the characters in the novel are richly layered, and the story builds to a surprising climax. Just when I thought I knew how things would go, Leavitt took the plot in another direction. She has a wonderful way of turning tragedy into compelling reading and of turning a flawed woman like Ava into someone you truly root for.
It’s so satisfying to finish a book and be able to recommend it without reservation to others, and I do recommend it. Leavitt is a beautiful writer and I can’t wait until she spins her next tale.