Cruel Beautiful World

Cruel Beautiful World

This was one of the books that I picked up the day I went-a-perusin’ at my local library branch, and I almost didn’t pick it up.  I’m not sure why, something about the cover did not do it for me, but when I read the inside jacket description, I had to bring it home with me. I enjoy books that explore obligation, duty, and love.

To understand what this book is about, you must know the different relationships that are at play here. I’ll tell you about the obvious ones, but there are even more that wiggle their way into the story.

  1. Sisters: Charlotte and Lucy Gold are sisters whose parents died in a fire and are adopted by Iris, their only remaining family. Charlotte is quiet, reserved, smart, and protective of Lucy, who is bold, rash, and impulsive. These characteristics cause Lucy to make the decision that starts the book off with a bang.
  2. Lovers: Lucy and William are in love and are going to run away together. Problem is, William is her high school English teacher and Lucy is only 16. I almost put the book down when I realized that the escape was truly going to happen (it happens in the first few chapters so it’s not a spoiler) but then the book turned to…
  3. Iris and Doug: in my opinion this is the most beautiful relationship in the entire book so I’m going to let you read and discover it for yourself. We learn of this connection through chapters devoted to Iris’ story and how she comes to adopt the two girls. This part of the book saved it for me.

So the story tells the backstory of Iris, and the forward story of Iris, Charlotte, and Lucy as Charlotte moves forward to struggle in college, Iris ages and has to give up her home in favor of an assisted living facility, and Lucy copes with her new lifestyle as they hide and wait for her 18th birthday.

Charlotte Leavitt has created a journey through the ups and downs of typical relationships we might have in our lives. She does not sugar coat them, she writes them in their full nakedness and lays bare all their petals and thorns. The realness of the characters, their struggles, their sense of obligation, and their guilt over things they may have not had any control over and now do not have the power to do anything about, all come together to weave a tale that is true and you won’t want to put it down. Not all of the stories end how you think they will, but all the stories do end how they might out in nature, which I respect.

This is a “walk, don’t run” to it kind of book, but you will want to add it to your TBR list. It’s a good’un.