Written By: Caroline Leavitt
Published By: Algonquin of Chapel Hill May 14, 2013
Length: 360 pages
Ava is a divorced single mother living in suburban Boston. The year is 1956, Ava and her twelve year old son Lewis are the only Jewish family on her block, and the combination of divorce and Jew have their little family mostly ostracized. Lewis is friends with the only other fatherless kids on the block, Jimmy and Rose, their father passed away when they were very young. Jimmy likes hanging out at Lewis and Ava’s house, he even likes it when Lewis isn’t home. He has a bit of a crush on Ava. Ava isn’t like most of the other moms. She’s a working woman, a typist for a plumbing company, and she dresses younger and trendier than the other moms. Ava turns heads, not something admired by the other women trying to keep a close eye on their husbands.
One ordinary spring day Ava shoos Jimmy out of her house because she has to head to work. Lewis is on his way home from a dentist appointment and he’s planning on meeting up with Jimmy later. Ava watches as Jimmy heads just down the street to his own home. Hours later Lewis is late coming home, and it’s an important night, he was going to meet Jake, Ava’s boyfriend. Jake is the first man Ava has wanted to introduce to her son, he’s also the first who has shown this interest. Hours pass, and then Ava learns both Jimmy and Rose are missing too. When Lewis and Rose show up after 10pm there is relief, but where is Jimmy?
This book is about so much more than just the mystery of a missing boy. Leavitt takes the reader back to an era of discrimination of the sexes, religious divides, where divorce is seen as a moral deficit. Ava’s character is so well developed, the reader is can picture her in those slim cut, side zip, slacks…not what the typical suburban mom is wearing. The reader can feel the lonely soul of Ava, she has no friends, she longs for the love of another man, but each date she has is scrutinized by her and anyone who sees her. Life post divorce is portrayed as an alienated life….so sad.
Lewis is a preteen as the book begins, and while his parents have been long divorced he has many unanswered questions and doubts. He blames his mother for his dad’s departure and he has fantasies of his father swooping in to rescue him. Lewis has no desire to meet his mom’s boyfriend, he’s decided he won’t like him, so it’s a lost cause even prior to their meeting. Lewis is different, a loner except for friends Jimmy and Rose, a boy who wears clothes given away by others. He’s a boy bullied and terrorized by others. The comfort and friendship he had with Rose is taken away after Jimmy disappears, Rose and her mother are shut off from most everyone. They both miss one another, even after Rose and her mother move away. I was sad by how alienated Lewis felt.
The setting was that of a different time, similar to my childhood of the 1960’s, kids left to play for hours and no one checked up on us. There were no play dates or cell phones or great fears of harm. Community fear and awareness are piqued when Jimmy disappears, every unknown car is suspect and anything out of the norm is questioned.
I loved this book so very much, 5 out of 5 stars!! I admit this is the first book I’ve read by Caroline Leavitt, and I was intimidated by how smart and sharp she is online. Oh my stars…what was I really afraid of and waiting for!!! Caroline writes with passion and causing her readers to question their own perspectives and prejudices as well. She discloses her own childhood of being the lone Jew in a Christian neighborhood influenced this book, how sad to be outcast for only being who you are. When will this ever end in our society? I highly recommend this book…go out and grab it today. I’m digging into Caroline’s back list soon. Learn more on her website.