Saturday, June 8, 2024

Days of Wonder

Days of Wonder by Caroline Leavitt
  Days of Wonder
Author:  Caroline Leavitt
Publication Information:  Algonquin Books. 2023. 320 pages.
ISBN:  164375128X / 978-1643751283

Rating:   ★★★★

Book Source:  I received this book through NetGalley and a publisher's blog tour free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "Ella stepped through the prison gate, blinded by the sun and the hard blue of the sky, frantically searching the crowd for her mother."

Favorite Quote:  "Her mother used to tell her the the most important forgiveness was God's, but to get it you had to first get the forgiveness of the person you had wounded. You had to ask once, then twice, and then a third time, and if you weren't forgiven by the person, then God, at least would forgive you."

***** BLOG TOUR *****


"I still look back in wonder at that summer." The "days of wonder" in this book are a summer in which young love begins, a family forms, a dispute occurs, and it all ends in tragedy. Fast forward several years. A young woman is released from prison. A mother tries to hold on and define who she is without the family unit. A young man discovers truths he has long not seen. 

Ella and Jude meet in school. Young puppy love or something much stronger? Either way, they both create a world onto themselves. Jude's father does not approve. Ella's mother somewhat does not or does in an effort to be part of the glow of their relationship and to maintain the family she longs for. She has her own history, having been disowned by her Hasidic Jewish family for what they considered an unforgivable sin. It has always been Helen and Ella. Now, she thinks it is to be Helen, Ella, and Jude.

As the book description states, Ella is accused of attempted murder of Jude's father. She is sent to prison. She is pregnant, and the baby is given up for adoption. What truly happened that night? Where did Jude go? Why did he never return?

Six year later, Ella finds herself out of prison and heading to Ann Arbor, where she thinks her daughter may be. Ann Arbor brings the baby's adoptive family and the issues there that Ella finds herself involved in. In addition, the shadow of her past haunts her. In addition, her relationship with her mother shifts as they both navigate this world.

Ultimately, this melodramatic story is about the women - Helen, Ella, Marianna, and even Angie (you have to read to find out who Angie is). It is about the sacrifices and the struggle to define a life, each for themselves. Helen, who now has the opportunity to define herself beyond the scared single mother abandoned by her family. Ella, who went to jail as a child and emerges as a women haunted by the past but looking for a future. Mairanna, whose marriage is not what she thought it was. Angie, who finds her love to have a past buried in secrets. It is also the story of a young man, who makes a tragic mistake as a child which is then exacerbated by abuse from an unforgiving father. As a result, the boy grows into a man who perhaps cannot forgive himself.

The book is melodramatic. However, the relationships, particularly of mother with daughter, are explored with care and ring true. The grief Helen, Ella, and Marianna suffer at the hands of the "system" and of the people in their lives rings true. The idea of forgiveness - for others, from others, for ourselves, and from ourselves rings true. For me, this is a memorable story.

About the Book

New York Times bestselling author Caroline Leavitt returns with a tantalizing, courageous story about mothers and daughters, guilt and innocence, and the lengths we go for love.

As a teenager, for a moment, Ella Fitchburg found love—yearning, breathless love—that consumed both her and her boyfriend, Jude, as they wandered the streets of New York City together. But her glorious life was pulled out from beneath her after she was accused of trying to murder Jude’s father, an imperious superior court judge. When she learns she’s pregnant shortly after receiving a long prison sentence, she reluctantly decides to give up the child.

Ella is released from prison after serving only six years and is desperate to turn the page on a new life, but she can’t seem to let go of her past. With only an address as a possible lead, she moves to Ann Arbor, Michigan, determined to get her daughter back. Hiding her identity and living in a constant state of deception, she finds that what she’s been searching for all along is a way to uncover—and live with—the truth. Yet a central mystery endures: neither Jude nor Ella can remember the events leading up to the attempted murder—that fateful night which led to Ella’s conviction.

For fans of Miranda Cowley Heller’s The Paper Palace and Allegra Goodman’s Sam, Caroline Leavitt’s Days of Wonder is a gripping high-drama page-turner about the elusive nature of redemption and the profound reach of love.

About the Author

Caroline Leavitt is the award-winning author of twelve novels, including the New York Times bestseller Pictures of You and Is This Tomorrow. A book critic for People magazine, her essays, articles and stories have been included in New York magazine, “Modern Love” in the New York Times, Salon, and The Daily Beast, among others. The recipient of a New York Foundation of the Arts Award for Fiction and a Sundance Screenwriters Lab finalist, she is also the co-founder of A Mighty Blaze.

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