Set in the Boston suburb of Waltham, Caroline Leavitt’s new novel, “Is This Tomorrow,’’ takes place when Ike was president, moms stayed home, divorce was outside the pale, and the shadow of Communism threatened the “father-knows-best” tranquillity of the 1950s.Thirty-something Ava Lark is a misfit in the blue collar Brookstone Family Homes neighborhood: She’s divorced, she’s Jewish, she works at a plumbing company, she dates, and she lives in a run-down ranch style house, the only rental in the area. She’s doing her best to raise her sensitive pre-teen son Lewis, who has never gotten over his father’s departure. Ava’s goals are simple: work full time at a job with benefits, help her son get to college as a way out of the day-to-day struggle to make ends meet, buy the house she’s renting, find someone to marry.
As had happened in her own growing-up years, her son is an outsider, bullied by the kids at school. They torment him for being Jewish, his lack of a dad, and his sexy mom, who is so different from their own mothers. Leavitt’s descriptions of the kids’ malevolence have the ring of authenticity. In time, Lewis meets Jimmy Rearson, the only other fatherless kid in the neighborhood. They hang out together and plan road trips to escape their narrow lives in Waltham. Jimmy’s sister Rose, a year older than the boys, becomes the third “Mouseketeer,” and the trio becomes inseparable.