Published by Algonquin Books on October 4th 2016
Source: Book Expo
Set in the early 1970s against the specter of the Manson girls, when the peace and love movement begins to turn ugly, this is the story of a runaway teenager's disappearance and her sister's quest to discover the truth.
Caroline Leavitt is at her mesmerizing best in this haunting, nuanced portrait of love, sisters, and the impossible legacy of family.
It's 1969, and sixteen-year-old Lucy is about to run away with a much older man to live off the grid in rural Pennsylvania, a rash act that will have vicious repercussions for both her and her older sister, Charlotte. As Lucy's default caretaker for most of their lives, Charlotte's youth has been marked by the burden of responsibility, but never more so than when Lucy's dream of a rural paradise turns into nightmare.
With gorgeous prose and indelible characters, Cruel Beautiful World examines the intricate, infinitesimal distance between seduction and love, loyalty and duty, and what happens when you're responsible for things you can't fix.
Sixteen year old has run away with her high school English teacher. Though her sister, Charlotte, and her guardian, Iris, do everything in their power to find her and bring her home, Lucy remains missing. The weeks turn into months.
During this period as the search for Lucy continues, we learn a lot about Iris, the only relative offering to care for Lucy and Charlotte after they are orphaned. Like Lucy and Charlotte, Iris has experienced loss and profound grief in her own life. Iris’ character was easily my favorite in this book. She’s a strong woman with a quiet dignity and heart of gold.
Meanwhile, Lucy has, predictably, become disillusioned with her new life as William’s hidden girlfriend. Even as she begins to fear and resent William’s now-controlling ways, she begins to tempt fate in an effort to maintain/regain her sense of self and independence.
This is the condensed, simplified version, of course. This book really has a lot going on. The remarkable thing is that it never feels like it’s too much. The pacing is what I refer to as a steady page turner. It didn’t make heart race or keep me at the edge of my seat but I found it difficult to put down.
Though I hadn’t read any of Ms. Leavitt’s previously published novels, I would certainly consider doing so. I’d also look forward to reading any book she publishes in the future. She is clearly a very talented writer with a special gift for conveying the senses of grief and loss in a way that is palpable.
Thanks to Algonquin Books for proving me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.