For five years Pearl has managed to keep the past from catching up to her and her bright, frail five-year-old son. Life has given her every reason to mistrust people, but circumstances force her to trust her neighbor Mitch with watching Leonard while she goes off to work. Then one day Pearl drops her son off...and never returns. They are an unlikely pair: Mitch is a young, unattached business owner, and Leonard is a precocious, five-year-old boy. But together they must find a way to move forward in the wake of Pearl's unexplained disappearance. Their bond as parent and child shifts and endures, even as Mitch must eventually surrender Leonard to a two-parent home. Is it possible to love the people who can't always be there for us The answers will surprise and move you. As their lives unfold, profound questions emerge about the nature of love and family. Ultimately, this novel's richest reward is watching Mitch and Leonard grow up together, through the power and the magic of the human heart.
Uniting vivid, needy characters in unlikely relationships is Hyde's specialty (Pay It Forward), evidenced in her emotional sixth novel. Featuring a tough teen, her sweet son, and their flawed but sincere neighbor, each take turns narrating their story in fresh, distinct voices. At thirteen, Pearl lives with a kind prostitute while her mom copes with a crippling drug addiction. In one tragic night, Pearl gets herself pregnant and accidentally kills the father, a police officer; on the run, Pearl decides that she and her son, Leonard, will share a "forever love," an unbreakable and unconditional bond. Pearl protects Leonard like a lioness, shielding him from the dangerous world and the tragic story of his father. At five, Leonard-smart, loving and saddled with a degenerative eye disease-stays with 25-year-old next-door neighbor Mitch while Pearl works; when Pearl disappears, Mitch must assume responsibility for Leonard-not easy to do while maintaining a home business and an affair with a client's wife. Despite Pearl's mysterious departure, Leonard stays true to her "forever love," denying that he has been abandoned. Mitch isn't so sure, and when Leonard begins having his own doubts, they both must re-examine their beliefs. Hyde excels in sentimental, utopian storytelling, and though it isn't as sharp a hook as "paying it forward," her story of a love that transcends time, place and human weakness is a worthy successor. (May) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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May 29, 2006
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Excerpt from Love in the Present Tense by Catherine Ryan Hyde
One night when I was seven I watched a man die. He was on the street under my bedroom window. I was on my knees looking out. The sound, it had woke me. The window was open for air, which there was not much of, and what there was did not move. The curtain did not blow aside, and it was dark in my room, and I knew they could not see me.
The man who was going to die was on his knees. Like myself. Only with his arms out. Not up, like a stickup. Straight out, like Christ on his cross, only with his knees bent. I call him a man because I was only seven at the time. To me he looked big. Now I can remember his face, both before and after, and I know he was maybe sixteen. But I mistook him for a man.
The guys doing the killing, there were three, standing up. Laughing, which is what woke me I think. One of them had a sawed-off shotgun right in the man's face. Sort of a man. I guess if you are about to die like that, you're more than a boy.
Now the sort-of-man, he started to cry. Big crocodile tears. Or what they call that, anyway. Why they call them crocodile tears I don't know. I have never seen a crocodile cry. I have never seen a crocodile. But I watched a man die. So I know some things. Only maybe they are not the best things to know.
Then the almost-dead man, he started up begging. Please, he said. Please, think of my mama. Think of the kids I ain't even get to have yet. Please don't do this, I'll do anything, what do you want me to do? His shoulders shook, like a little earthquake right under the street that nobody could feel but him. His own little personal seven point one, just under his knees.