Synopsis (from Goodreads):
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.
I picked up this book because Booksparks had chosen it as their book club selection, and I’m a sucker for a good book club. I was familiar with Leavitt’s name but hadn’t read any of her books before, so I had no idea what to expect from Cruel Beautiful World. It absolutely blew me away. It takes a hard look at the bonds we create with those closest to us and the secrets we keep from them in our attempts to protect and love them. Unfortunately, those secrets don’t always lead to the protection and happiness that we had hoped for.
My heart completely broke for the characters in this book. I so desperately wanted to reach into the pages and give them hugs to comfort their breaking hearts, scream at them when they couldn’t see how their choices were going to harm instead of help, and cry with them when the story ended. And while all of that may sound depressing, I didn’t walk away from this book feeling sad. Instead, I felt emotionally satiated. I had experienced the full spectrum of emotions with these beautifully damaged characters and came out on the other in one piece.
This book is so worth your time. If you enjoy an emotional story, read it. If you enjoy characters that feel like real people, read it. If you just plain like to read good books, read it.