Cruel Beautiful World by Caroline Leavitt


Book Blurb from

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 serious 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.

My Review:

This book is set in the backdrop of the late ’60s with the ongoing trials of Charles Manson. Lucy is 16 years old and in a relationship with William, her high school English teacher. They decide to run away together at the end of the school year. She leaves behind her sister, Charlotte, and her adoptive mother, Iris.  Lucy and Charlotte lost both of their parents at a young age.

They settle in rural Pennsylvania where life is less than ideal for Lucy.  She expected a life of love but instead is kept confined to her home, almost as a prisoner. William has strong feelings for Lucy but is overwhelmed with fright about having their relationship exposed to the outside world. At the same time, Iris is facing health issues and challenges living in her home. Charlotte is having difficulty focusing and enjoying life at college. She is burdened with trying to figure out what has happened to her sister.

The book has an easy flow to it, but make no mistake, there are heavy life themes intertwined within this story. The chapters alternate by family members. I enjoyed how the author has us first meet a character, and then provides the details of their past life. She beautifully depicts that as humans we make errors in judgement. Life and the people you love aren’t perfect, it can get messy.  

Enjoy this read.

I am giving away a copy of this book via facebook until 10/20