Days of Wonder

  • Review
By – June 10, 2024

This com­pul­sive­ly read­able nov­el homes in on a chal­leng­ing moth­er-daugh­ter bond — and there are some unusu­al twists along the way. It begins with Helen Levy pick­ing up her adult daugh­ter, Ella, from the women’s prison where she has been incar­cer­at­ed as a felon for the past six years. Ella’s infa­mous case was once all over the news, and the press’s inter­est in her has now returned with a vengeance. Ella’s sen­tence was sur­pris­ing­ly cut down from the orig­i­nal twen­ty-five years by a car­ing pro bono lawyer who found irreg­u­lar­i­ties in the arrest procedures. 

Helen is the sin­gle mom of her only child. She wants the two of them to restart their lives with a new sur­name in a new neigh­bor­hood. Ella’s life is fur­ther com­pli­cat­ed by the fact that she was preg­nant at the time of her arrest and was con­vinced to give up her new­born baby to strangers in a closed adoption.

The book then moves back in time, and the read­er is treat­ed to the extreme­ly intense first love between shy lon­er high school­ers Ella Levy and Jude Stein. Jude is the son of Judge Stein, an influ­en­tial, wealthy pro­fes­sion­al and an explo­sive, alco­holic father. Jude is intel­li­gent, hand­some, and sen­si­tive, and was wel­comed by Ella’s mom to their tiny fam­i­ly and mod­est apart­ment. Helen’s back­ground and rela­tion­ship with her own fam­i­ly is quite unique and has been the impe­tus for her deci­sion-mak­ing ever since she was a young teen. Jude rel­ished the love, care, and atten­tion he received in his home away from home. But this arrange­ment was sud­den­ly inter­rupt­ed by his father’s con­trol­ling per­son­al­i­ty and his obvi­ous dis­taste for the class dif­fer­ence between the kids.

As soon as Ella is released, she is des­per­ate to find out about her child and sets off to do so secret­ly, away from the dis­ap­prov­ing eyes of Helen. This leads Ella into very dan­ger­ous legal and emo­tion­al ter­ri­to­ry as she finds and stalks her daugh­ter and adop­tive parents.

This intense page-turn­er takes place in the bor­oughs of New York City and in the col­lege town of Ann Arbor, Michi­gan. Some may call it a psy­cho­log­i­cal thriller, giv­en that pas­sion and attempt­ed mur­der are cen­tral ele­ments. This is Car­o­line Leavitt’s best work to date. She ties togeth­er many themes with detailed descrip­tions of neigh­bor­hoods, peo­ple, rela­tion­ships, and emo­tions. Both moth­er and daugh­ter wor­ry about reveal­ing secrets at the same time that they wish for sta­bil­i­ty in their dai­ly lives. They need to fig­ure out how to move for­ward, both togeth­er and apart.

Miri­am Brad­man Abra­hams, mom, grand­mom, avid read­er, some­time writer, born in Havana, raised in Brook­lyn, resid­ing in Long Beach on Long Island. Long­time for­mer One Region One Book chair and JBC liai­son for Nas­sau Hadas­sah, cur­rent­ly pre­sent­ing Inci­dent at San Miguel with author AJ Sidran­sky who wrote the his­tor­i­cal fic­tion based on her Cuban Jew­ish refugee family’s expe­ri­ences dur­ing the rev­o­lu­tion. Flu­ent in Span­ish and Hebrew, cer­ti­fied hatha yoga instructor.

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