Encuentra tu próximo/a libro favorito/a

Conviértase en miembro hoy y lea gratis durante 30 días
Cruel Beautiful World: A Novel

Cruel Beautiful World: A Novel

Leer la vista previa

Cruel Beautiful World: A Novel

4/5 (143 valoraciones)
412 página
6 horas
Sep 19, 2016


Sixteen-year-old Lucy Gold is about to run away with a much older man to live off the grid in rural Pennsylvania, a rash act that will have vicious repercussions for both her and her older sister, Charlotte. As Lucy’s default parent for most of their lives, Charlotte has seen her youth marked by the burden of responsibility, but never more so than when Lucy’s dream of a rural paradise turns into a nightmare.
Cruel Beautiful World examines the intricate, infinitesimal distance between seduction and love, loyalty and duty, chaos and control, as it explores what happens when you’re responsible for things you cannot make right. 
Set against a backdrop of peace, love, and the Manson murders, the novel is a reflection of the era: exuberant, defiant, and precarious all at once. And Caroline Leavitt isat her mesmerizing best in this haunting, nuanced portrait of love, sisters, and the impossible legacy of family.
Sep 19, 2016

Sobre el autor

Caroline Leavitt is the award-winning author of twelve novels, including the New York Times bestsellers Pictures of You and Is This Tomorrow. Her essays and stories have been included in New York magazine, Psychology Today, More, Parenting, Redbook, and Salon. She’s a book critic for People, the Boston Globe, and the San Francisco Chronicle, and she teaches writing online at Stanford and UCLA.

Relacionado con Cruel Beautiful World

Libros relacionados

Vista previa del libro

Cruel Beautiful World - Caroline Leavitt


Chapter 1


Lucy runs away with her high school teacher, William, on a Friday, the last day of school, a June morning shiny with heat. She’s downstairs in the kitchen, and Iris has the TV on. The weather guy, his skin golden as a cashew, is smiling about power outages, urging the elderly and the sick to stay inside, his voice sliding like a trombone, and as soon as she hears the word elderly, Lucy glances uneasily at Iris.

He doesn’t mean me, honey, Iris says mildly, putting more bacon to snap in the pan. I’m perfectly fine.

Good, Lucy thinks, good, because it makes it that much easier for her to do what she’s going to do. Lucy is terrified, but she acts as if everything is ordinary. She eats the bacon, the triangles of rye toast, and the scrambled eggs that Iris leaves her, freckling them with pepper and pushing the lumpy curds around her plate. Lucy drinks the orange juice Iris pours for her and picks up the square multivitamin next to her plate, pretending to swallow it but then spitting it out in her napkin moments later because it has this silty undertaste. She wants to tell Iris to take more vitamins, since she won’t be around to remind her. It’s nearly impossible for her to believe that Iris turned seventy-nine in May. Everyone always says Iris barely looks in her late sixties, and just last week Lucy spotted an old man giving Iris the once-over at a restaurant, his eyes drifting over her body, lingering on her legs. Lucy knows three kids at school whose parents—far younger than Iris—have died suddenly: two fathers felled by heart attacks, a mother who suffered a stroke while walking the dog. Lucy knows that anything can happen and age is the hand at your back, giving you an extra push toward the abyss.

She tells herself Iris will be fine. Iris hasn’t had to work for years, since receiving sizable insurance money from her husband, who died in his sixties. Plus, she has money from Lucy’s parents. Lucy had never heard her parents talk about Iris, but Iris told Lucy and Charlotte it was because she was only very distantly related.

Lucy was only five when her parents died, Charlotte a year and a half older, and she doesn’t remember much about that life, though she’s seen the photos, two big red albums Iris keeps on a high shelf. She’s in more of the photos with her parents than Charlotte is, and she wonders whether that’s because Charlotte didn’t like being photographed then any more than she does now. There are lots of photos of Charlotte and Lucy together, jumping rope, sitting in a circle of dolls, laughing. But the photos of her parents alone! Her mother, winking into the camera, is all banana blond in a printed dress, her legs long and lean as a colt’s. Her father, burly and white-haired, with a mustache so thick it looks like a scrub brush, is kissing her mother’s cheek. They hold hands in the pictures. They smooch over a Thanksgiving turkey. Her dad was much older than her mom, but he didn’t act like it. They were at a supper club, dancing and having dinner, the girls at home with a sitter, when the fire broke out. Later, the news reports said it was someone’s cigarette igniting a curtain into flames so heavy most of the people there never made it out.

When she thinks about her parents, Lucy feels as if there is a mosquito trapped and buzzing in her body. She tells herself the stories Charlotte has told her, the few Charlotte can remember. There was the time their parents took them to Florida and they rode ponies on the beach. The time they all went to New York City to look at the Christmas lights and Lucy cried because the multitude of Santa Clauses confused her. She has told herself all these stories so many times she can almost convince herself that she really remembers them. Iris has no stories about the girls’ parents. Our lives were all so busy, Iris says. We just never got together.

Lucy glances at Iris bustling around the kitchen, pouring coffee, reaching for the sugar. She looks old, her skin lined, her hands embroidered with blue veins. Iris has never seemed old before, Lucy thinks. Iris took the girls to the park, she threw and sometimes caught Frisbees. The only thing she couldn’t do was take the girls to a movie in the evening, because she didn’t like driving at night. Plus, she preferred to go to bed early. Charlotte was always Iris’s big-girl helper, watching Lucy on the swings, running after her, and, a lot of the time, just sitting on one of the benches with Iris, the two of them with their heads dipped together, laughing, so that Lucy would have to stand on the swings and go higher just to blot out the surprise of being the odd person out.

Iris turns the TV to another channel. She shakes her head when she sees the hippies on the news, a sudden influx of them congregated and camping out in Boston Common, spread out on the green lawn like wildflowers, all of them in tie-dyes and striped or polka-dot pants and bare feet, some of the girls in flowing dresses or minis so tiny they barely cover their thighs, but Lucy finds herself glued to the set. Like sheep! Iris says, pointing to the way the cops are herding the kids back onto the streets. Look at how they dress! Iris marvels.

Lucy sighs. Iris wears jewel-tone silk dresses every day, or blouses and skirts. She’s always in low-heeled, strappy shoes. Her white hair is braided into a fussy ring around her head, like Heidi, and her earrings are always button ones, instead of the long, jangly ones Lucy wears. Look at that one, Iris says when the camera focuses on a boy with ringlets skimming his shoulders. What a world, Iris marvels, and she shuts the set off. But Lucy loves the way the hippies look, the multitude of rings on their toes and fingers, the clashing clothes. These kids are part of a life glittering just inches away from her, and all she has to do is grab hold, the way she does with William’s hair, thick and shiny as satin. She can almost feel her hands in it, tugging him closer to kiss her.

She wants to tell Iris and Charlotte. She wants to tell someone, but she can’t.

Iris hands Lucy a brown paper bag filled with a peanut butter sandwich and an apple, the same lunch Lucy’s had since elementary school. Iris sits down and pulls out the crossword puzzle from the daily newspaper. This is her favorite part of the day. She picks up a pencil and chews on the end and then glances at Lucy again. Honey, go find a hairbrush before you go, Iris says.

Lucy pats down her cap of curls and then sits and finishes her juice. She looks around the kitchen as if she’s memorizing every detail—the oak table and chairs, the braided rug—because until she’s eighteen, just two years from now, when no one can legally stop her from being with William, she won’t see this room again.

She has to leave the house before Charlotte can catch up and ask why her knapsack is so heavy, why Lucy seems so nervous, why she’s in such a hurry. Charlotte worries over Lucy the same way she worries about everything, and though Lucy used to like that, now it’s a burden. She’s taken only what she thinks she’ll need, because William says that the whole idea is to simplify their lives, that people today are too hung up on having stuff. She packed two pairs of bell-bottom jeans, one of them elephant bells, a paisley minidress, her favorite pink felt shift dress —the same one Twiggy wore on the cover of Seventeen —and her Love’s Baby Soft shampoo. She has a brand-new Lanz nightgown with black lace trim and a pair of yellow marabou slippers she found on sale for two dollars, crumpled in a bin at Zayre, the feathers fluffed around the toes. And of course, she has her blue journal, a new one that she’s already started to use.

She wonders whether Charlotte will miss her. Though they go to the same school, Lucy is a sophomore, while Charlotte is a senior, and that makes a big difference. Charlotte loves every stupid brick of Waltham High, but Lucy is in misery. The school is so small minded. Last year, while all the world and other high schools were protesting the Vietnam War, Waltham High had a tiny walkout of just twenty kids, mostly the art and drama students, and by the time everyone spilled onto the blacktop outside, the protest had changed from being against the war to wanting a Coke machine in the cafeteria. What do we want? someone screamed. When do we want it? Coke! Now!As soon as all the kids came back inside, sweaty from the heat, jazzed up, they all got detention, including Lucy. The president knows better than you what should be done with the war, Iris said to her. What if people did this during World War Two? What if all the soldiers decided they didn’t want to go? We’d all be under Nazi rule.

The day of the walkout, Charlotte didn’t get detention, because she was taking her SATs for the third time, as if her stellar scores the first two times weren’t high enough. But even if Charlotte had been there, she probably wouldn’t have joined the protest, because she’d have been worrying what would happen, whether getting detention would spoil her chances of landing her choice college. She’d have made a list of every positive and negative, and by the time she was done, the war would have been over and she wouldn’t have had to make a decision at all.

Charlotte has no idea how good she has it. She’s always been in the accelerated honors program. She’s completely gorgeous, with startling eyes, green as limes, and the kind of thick, straight cocoa hair that Lucy yearns for. But instead of growing it to her waist, parting it in the middle, the way Lucy would have, Charlotte chops it to her chin, cutting it herself with scissors in the bathroom because she’s afraid that the hair salons won’t listen to her, that they might give her an artichoke or a pixie style instead. Plus, Charlotte has already decided her whole life. She loves animals and she wants to be a veterinarian, and she got a full scholarship at Brandeis. It’s only ten minutes away, Charlotte tells them, but Lucy gets this ache behind her eyes when she thinks about it. Her sister has always been in the house with her. How can she so easily leave Lucy behind?

Ever since Charlotte started worrying about college, the only person she hangs out with is her friend Birdie, another study-all-the-time girl who’s going to be a theater major at Emerson, and when Lucy listens in on their conversations, all they talk about is leaving home.

Charlotte bought saffron-colored Indian bedspreads for her dorm room from the Harvard Coop, and a funny lamp shaped like a pineapple. She’s already written to her roommate, a girl from California named Cherry Mossman, who sent Charlotte a photo of herself and her beagle, both wearing angel wings for Halloween.

Lucy knows from friends of hers how it is, how their brothers or sisters went off to college and made lives there and didn’t come back, and even if they did, the person who returned was different. Just like William told her. People move on. They change. They go on and make new families.

"What’s a three-letter word for pies starting with the letter z?" Iris asks, readjusting a white bobby pin in her hair.

"Zas, Lucy says, and Iris frowns. Are you sure? she says. Is that really a word?"

Lucy has a feeling that if Charlotte answered the question, Iris wouldn’t doubt her. It means pizza, she says. She hesitates and then gets up from the table and kisses Iris on the cheek. Iris flushes. Well, what have I done to deserve something that nice today? Iris says. Did you eat enough? Are you taking a jacket? It might get cool later.

Lucy nods. Sometimes Lucy feels that Iris worries over her more than she does Charlotte, and it makes Lucy feel deficient, as if she can’t take care of herself. She keeps thinking that soon she will be one less thing for Iris to worry about.

Lucy hears Charlotte coming into the kitchen, the rat-a-tat-tat of the green cowboy boots she insists on wearing every day, the heavy way she walks as if she needs to weight herself to the earth or she’ll fly away. There she is, Lucy’s sister, as startling as an exclamation point, in a purple mini and orange tights.

Morning, Charlotte says, reaching for a bagel on the counter, brushing close.

Lucy breathes in deeply. Hey, she says.

Her sister, who never eats much, takes neat bites out of her bagel. If you wait a few minutes, I’ll walk to school with you, Charlotte offers.

The thought scares Lucy. She knows if she has to speak, her plans will be doomed, they will helplessly leak from her. She’s never been able to keep much from her sister.

I can’t. I have to see the science teacher before class, Lucy says, and she bolts toward the front door.

See you later, then, Charlotte says, waving a hand.

On the way out, Lucy spots the long red silk scarf Charlotte’s taken to wearing, which is hanging on the doorknob. She grabs it. She’s taking this part of Charlotte with her. She has to have something. She wraps it around her neck, lets it flutter to her waist, and races outside.

BEING IN SCHOOL is tricky because Lucy keeps dodging people she knows so she won’t have to talk to them. The less anyone knows, the better. She winds in and out of couples and groups of girls, her heart hammering against her ribs. She ignores the catcalls of the boys, the sly way they take her in, their eyes fastened on her. Hey, frizzy, you busy? someone yells, but she pretends not to hear. She’s so not interested in any of them. She hums so that her whole body seems to vibrate, something Mr. Hobert, her science teacher, had told them was actually good for people, because vibrations can heal by the power of sound. She leans against the hallway walls, trying to compose herself. She presses her toes together in her shoes and feels the forty dollars she tucked into her sneakers. Ever since Iris started giving her an allowance, she’s been saving every bit she can, and now she has all of it stuffed in her shoes. She’s walking on money. This waiting is drumming inside her. Every sound makes her flinch. Please, she wants to say out loud. Please let this happen to me.

At second period, she’s in Algebra with Miss Grimes, who wears pop beads and pink lipstick. There’s a smell of stale bubblegum (most of it stuck to the underside of her desk) and sour milk, and Lucy isn’t sure she can stand it another second.

Homework, says Miss Grimes, and Lucy can see there is a freckle of lipstick on her front tooth. Everyone passes the papers forward except for Lucy, who tried to do the quadratic equations the night before and got so confused she finally gave up. She tried and tried, but she just didn’t get it. Miss Grimes looks at her. Really, Lucy, even on the last day of class? Lucy lowers her head, but she knows she will never have to do this humbling before a teacher again.

At lunch in the cafeteria, Lucy sits at the same table she always does, with Sable and Heather, her friends but not really her friends, girls she’s known since grade school who live conveniently near her. They talk about a party that night, held at some girl’s house. While Lucy picks at the cafeteria pizza, pulling off the gluey cheese, finding the crust, Heather and Sable scope out the boys they have crushes on. The girls twirl their hair and examine their split ends. Lucy knows the boys look at her, and sometimes she thinks that’s the only reason Sable and Heather hang around her, so that they can get the ones Lucy doesn’t want. Lucy’s had dates, but her initial attraction always fades after a week or two, something that worries her a little. You just haven’t found the right guy, Sable told her, and now Lucy knows that was true.

Older kids are supposed to be at this party, Heather says.

We’ll pick you up, Sable confirms.

No, no. I’ll meet you guys there, Lucy tells them.

It’s so easy to lie. It’s getting easier all the time.

Then, there it is, after a whole day of staring at the clock, three in the afternoon, and Lucy swears that for a moment all the color has bled out of the school. Every person seems smudged. She leans against her locker, gulping air, averting her whole body so she can’t tell if anyone is looking at her. Luckily she hasn’t run into Charlotte all day, but then she’s been racing out of one class to the next, taking weird routes to get there, hallways where she knows her sister won’t be.

Lucy walks through the school’s main entrance for the last time, keeping her head down. She’ll always remember this day. She’ll never forget it. Worry thumps in her head.

She had debated with herself how to leave, over and over, pulled like elastic. She didn’t want to be cruel, didn’t want anyone to worry. We need to just go, William had told her quietly, but she couldn’t do that. Instead she left a note, tucked under her pillow. They won’t think to worry about her until she isn’t there for dinner, and even then they’ll chalk up her absence to her forgetting the time while she’s out carousing after the last day of school. No one will even think to scour her bedroom until Sable or Heather calls, wanting to know where Lucy is, why she isn’t at the party. Then Iris and Charlotte will search her room and they’ll find the note. Then they’ll realize that Lucy’s fine. She’s doing this of her own volition. I love you but I have to do this. I am happy and safe and I will call you soon and explain everything. Please don’t worry.

LUCY LEANS AGAINST the side of the school until she sees Mr. Lallo—William—striding out the door, pulling off his jacket so he’s wearing just a black T-shirt, acting as if it’s ordinary for a teacher to leave at the same time as the kids. All the teachers are expected to stay until four, to make themselves available to the kids, though most of them just end up hanging around in empty classrooms, drumming their fingers on their desks or reading the newspaper. But of course, today is different.

Lucy watches William, admires his graceful lope. He’s thirty years old and he came to the school a year ago from a free school in California called the Paradise School, and he’s different from all the other teachers, full of new ideas. The first thing he did was to take apart the rows and put all the desks in a circle. The kids watched him, astonished, unsure what to do or where to go. Sit wherever you like, he told them, and the kids looked so confused he had to repeat it again. Wherever you want. Claim your space, he said. It can be different every day.

At first, Lucy was anxious in his class. She wanted to do well, but she had always struggled in school. She wondered whether she was all that smart, something so dark and shameful she tried not to think about it too much. Could she really be stupid? Charlotte was worlds smarter. Charlotte could read before she even hit kindergarten, while Lucy was always in the third reading group, the one where all the dummies were. Whenever Lucy got a teacher that Charlotte had had, the teacher was always delighted. You’re Charlotte’s sister! they said, as if they’d just discovered a new planet. But then Lucy would start failing, and she would feel their disappointment like a fog settling over her.

Charlotte helped her with her homework, but even so, Lucy brought home Cs and even a few Ds. It wasn’t long before Lucy was stuck in general ed with all the kids whose only possibilities after high school were the armed forces or marriage or being a cashier at Woolworth’s. Lucy felt her heart knot. How many evenings had Charlotte sat with her, patiently explaining quadratic equations and the Magna Carta, not caring if it took all evening, making Lucy laugh, being as excited as Lucy when Lucy brought home Bs? But then Charlotte started worrying about PSATs and then SATS, about colleges and essays. She began studying through the evenings, sometimes even taking her dinner into her room so she wouldn’t waste time. Charlotte looked helplessly at Lucy when Lucy was frowning over her books. I’m fine. I can do it on my own, Lucy said, and she saw the relief bloom on her sister’s face. After that, Lucy just stopped asking.

Lucy studied for hours—the history dates, the math theorems, the French verbs—but it all flew out of her head. She tried everything. Flash cards. Repeating facts before she went to sleep like a mantra, because she had heard that information would imprint on your brain almost the way it did under hypnosis. She had gone to her teachers for help after class, but all the teachers did was to give her more take-home worksheets that she still didn’t understand. She knew her PSAT scores were so low she wouldn’t get in anywhere she applied, let alone get a scholarship. Even the guidance counselor had given up on her, telling her, Not everyone is meant to go to college, as if that was supposed to make her feel better. Iris told her brightly, There’s always Katie Gibbs, and Lucy knew she meant Katherine Gibbs, the secretarial school in the city where you had to wear white gloves and skirts and stockings and the best you could hope for was a boring job typing for some man who looked down on you. I’m not going to Katie Gibbs, Lucy insisted.

It leads to jobs, Iris said. I just want you to have a great life. To be able to take care of yourself. But Lucy wasn’t so sure how great a life that would be. Not then, anyway.

THE FIRST CLASS Lucy ever did well in was William’s English class.

He took the gray Manter Hall vocabulary books and put them in his closet. You can learn vocabulary by reading. He had the students underline words they didn’t know in books and look them up. He said that you should write about how a story made you feel rather than parrot what you thought the symbolism was and what the author really meant, because no one really knew that other than the author, and sometimes the author was clueless. A table can be green just because that’s the first color the writer thought of, William said. He made them all buy notebooks, which they were to call their journals, and when Lucy stared at the page, paralyzed, he crouched down by her desk. Write about the thing that scares you the most, he encouraged. That night, she wrote four pages about how afraid she was of getting stuck in Waltham, having to be a secretary or a cashier, living at home because she couldn’t afford her own place. She wrote about missing her sister, who was always studying now, how it felt as if she had lost her partner in crime. When she read her story over, it surprised her that her writing didn’t seem that bad. That it actually felt honest and even fun, like when she and Charlotte made up stories when they were kids. Later, when William handed it back to her, he was grinning. I liked this lots, Lucy, he said, and then she looked from him to her journal and saw the big inky A. She had never received an A, not even in Home Ec, where all you had to do was show up and make sure your apron was ironed and clean. She couldn’t wait to write more in the journal, just to get an A again, maybe on something a little less personal so she could show it to Iris and Charlotte. This is something I can do.

William played movies in class, clips from Fellini and Antonioni. The films were surprising and strange, and while a lot of the kids put their heads on their arms and dozed, Lucy loved them. She even sort of understood them, which made her begin to wonder whether maybe she wasn’t as dim as everyone seemed to think. When William asked what they thought about the imaginary game of tennis at the end of Blow-Up, kids hunkered down in their seats, trying to be invisible, but Lucy hesitantly raised her hand. Isn’t it about what’s real and what isn’t? How we can’t tell the difference sometimes? she said. William beamed. What a good point, Lucy, he said, and she felt the flush rise up to her cheekbones. He actually thought she was smart, and it made her feel like a light that had just been switched on.

Ask me anything, William would say, and slowly, hesitantly, their hands popped up. He had never been married. He had had lots of girlfriends. He had been born in Belmont and gone to college at Tufts. His father was dead, but his mother still lived in the house where he grew up. He’d tried grass, opium, acid, but was completely straight now. Yes, it had felt great, that’s why people got addicted. That was the whole point and why drugs were so dangerous. And no, none of you should even think of trying any, he said.

Not only did he support the antiwar movement, but he’d marched in Boston a few months ago and even got to talk to Abbie Hoffman, who was there giving a speech. William wore a Not-So-Silent Spring button on his jacket lapel, a dot of yellow imprinted with an upraised red fist that held a sprig of greenery. Hey, hey, LBJ. How many kids did you kill today? he chanted, and then he told them the answer, writing on the board the Vietnam death toll for 1968—16,899—a number so staggeringly high that the kids shifted uneasily in their seats, because they knew there was a draft. The boys could be called up one day. Their lives could end, just like that. Not if you resist the draft, William assured them. He drew a map of Canada on the blackboard and tapped the chalk on it. Or go here, he said. What a beautiful country. His voice was silky as a promise. It’s possible to live in a perfect world, he said. Peace. Love. They aren’t just dreams, but you have to fight for them.

William believed in civil rights, women’s lib, and progressive education, in teaching to the kids’ own personal level. School curricula were too regimented for him. They killed any desire for what he called never-ending learning. He talked about this school Summerhill in England, where there were no classes at all and you could learn whatever you wanted on whatever day you wanted. Success there was defined not by grades but by what the child himself thought was successful. What’s a grade? he said dismissively. Einstein flunked math. I give grades because the school requires it, but don’t think for a moment that grade is all you are. You’re all so much more. Lucy thought of the F on her latest French test, all those past-perfect verbs swimming by her like a school of wild fish. She thought of the As and Bs he was giving her, his constant praise.

The kids all loved him (except for Charlotte, who actually dropped out of his class the year before because she said she wasn’t learning enough). The kids all thought he was hip and cool and wonderful. He wore a tie and jacket like the other teachers, but his tie had dancing dogs on it, or words in French that he would teach them. C’est si bon. It’s so good. His suit jacket was sometimes bright purple or paisley, and even though boys were being sent home for having their hair too long, forced to cut it or slick it back with grease, William’s hair dusted his collar.

Lucy saw the way some of the other teachers eyed him suspiciously. She heard that parents had begun to complain about the antiwar articles William handed out in class, taken from love-me-I’m-a-liberal magazines like the New Yorker or the Atlantic Monthly. Where were the things these kids really needed to know, like grammar and vocabulary, and the tests to prove they had mastered them? Shouldn’t they be writing research papers? Parents complained that instead of having students in Lucy’s class read Romeo and Juliet, which the other English class was reading, he had handed out paperbacks of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and even though he had paid for the books himself, the principal had made all the kids give them back, standing over William to make sure it was done. The book is subversive, Mr. Socker said. It’s inappropriate. Plus, the author is one of those nut jobs who rides around in a painted bus and takes LSD, and why give these kids ideas?

Why not? William asked. Isn’t that what school is about, ideas? Mr. Socker just gave him a pained look and walked away.

The next story William had the class read was taken from the Atlantic Monthly, put on ditto sheets. The kids all put the pages to their faces to inhale the fumes, eyes closed, and then Lucy saw the pages were censored, whole paragraphs blacked out. William refused to meet anyone’s eyes. His mouth was a line. All Lucy could get from the story was that it was about a soldier in Vietnam and he had killed someone and now he was wandering lost in the jungle and everything was rotting: his clothes, his skin, his mind. Too much of the story was gone for her to follow it. She was lost and she began to feel thick and stupid again. One kid complained, This doesn’t make sense with all these words crossed out, and William said, You’re right, it sure doesn’t, but his voice was weary, his head lowered, when he said it. Put the story away, he said finally. Open up your vocabulary books.

But we never use them— someone said, and then William narrowed his eyes. Just do it, he said, and everyone dug out their Manter Halls.

It wasn’t long before it became official, before everyone somehow knew. William had been warned, not just by the principal, but by the school board. There had been too many complaints from parents, and a few from other teachers. There had been meetings with everyone trying to decide what to do. Lucy said nothing about any of this at home, afraid that Iris would think the warning was appropriate, that Charlotte would chime in and agree. William was put on probation for not following the curriculum, for talking about the war, for discussing his personal life, for encouraging the students to call him William, which was not school policy, and which certainly broke the barriers that needed to be there.

One day, William was absent from class. They had a substitute, an older woman in a green suit and tight, dry curls, who scratched her name across the green board in chalk: Mrs. Marmoset. Like the animal, she told them, and one of the boys in the back made his hands into claws. I saw that, Mrs. Marmoset said. And my talons leave scars. Just so you know.

Let’s get this room in order, shall we? she said. She made them put the desks back in rows, took attendance so she could seat them alphabetically, and then drilled them on vocabulary words, raising her arms as if she were conducting an orchestra, shocked at how they couldn’t conjugate irregular verbs or diagram a sentence or use the word mendacious in a sentence. She shook her head, clucking her teeth. This is not good, people, she said. What have you been doing all year?

Halfway through a drill of past-perfect verbs, William showed up in the doorway, his shirt rumpled, his hair askew, his tie like a noose around his neck. As soon as he strode into the room, the air felt charged. I’ll take over now, he said to Mrs. Marmoset. He said something to her quietly. Mrs. Marmoset looked at him doubtfully. Well, I don’t think— she said in her normal voice, but he murmured something else to her, something more insistent, and then she nodded reluctantly.

Work hard, people, she said to the class. Then she left the room.

Everyone waited, rustling in their seats, but William didn’t teach. Instead he surveyed the class, as if he were taking their measure, as if he expected them to do something for him. He looked at all the conjugated verbs on the blackboard, the books open on their desks, all set in fierce rows, and then he sat at his desk and put his head in his hands. Mr. Lallo? someone in the back said, but William stayed motionless. William? a girl called, and he lifted his head for a moment and then lowered it again. They could see he was crying. Lucy sat frozen at her desk. No one spoke, and then the bell rang and everyone quietly filed

Has llegado al final de esta vista previa. ¡Regístrate para leer más!
Página 1 de 1


Lo que piensa la gente sobre Cruel Beautiful World

143 valoraciones / 57 Reseñas
¿Qué te pareció?
Calificación: 0 de 5 estrellas

Reseñas de lectores

  • (4/5)
    I received this book through LibrayThing Early Reviews program. I was very excited to receive this book because I love Caroline Leavitt. And, I wasn't disappointed by this one, I read it straight through. Charlotte and Lucy are orphaned at an early age and are taken in by an elderly relative who loves them both dearly. Lucy can't wait to grow up and leave their small town behind and does so at age sixteen with her teacher. This act changes life, not only for her but also for her sister and aunt who are left behind not knowing where she is. The time period of the 60's is a main character as well and there is a real sense of place and time in this book. Excellent, recommended.
  • (4/5)
    This story takes place in the early 1970's, a time of upheaval, war, free love and the ongoing Manson trials. Two girls, older studious, conservative sister Charlotte and Lucy, a few years younger but a free spirit suddenly lose their parents in a tragic accident and Iris is asked to care for them. Iris is widowed, older and no children of her own, wonders if this is a good idea. But not wanting the girls to go into foster care, she agrees. The girls are uncertain of this new relationship until Iris brings up the subject of adoption. Afterwards the three of them are one happy family for awhile. Or so Iris thinks. Charlotte is busy trying to keep her grades up, looking and applying to colleges - her head in books and SAT exams. Barely noticing Lucy, she is shocked one day to find Lucy is gone! Vanished with only a small note saying she's fine.Lucy the city girl has run away with her free thinking 30 year old teacher, William, who takes them to the backwoods of Pennsylvania to a cabin. He plans to live off the grid with chickens that he expects Lucy to feed and gather eggs, clean house, make meals and be happy by herself all day while he teaches in a new school. She is to stay put, call no one, talk to no one, make friends with no one as she is a minor. At first Lucy thinks this is romantic. Until she gets bored. There are other story lines within this story that the reader will have to discover on their own.Although it is told by different POV, the author has woven each beautifully. 3.5 stars
  • (4/5)
    Herein lies both an interesting novel with two distinct points of view - actually five, as other major characters also have their say when they unwind their own stories. Young sisters Lucy and Charlotte lose both parents and are taken in by Iris, a widow who, unbeknownst to them, is their half sister. Lucy, as many teenage girls do, falls in love with one of her teachers, William - but unlike 99% of us, they run away together. With the fear of prison for William, Lucy is kept isolated in a rural farmhouse and begins to regret her decision. She is platonically befriended by Patrick, a widower who senses that something's wrong but fails to act. Enter Charlotte, studious and serious, who is finally summoned to Lucy's rescue, but arrives too late to prevent tragedy. The voice switches abruptly from Lucy's to Charlotte's, and the remaining words belong to her, William, Iris, and Patrick, all seeking to minimize their pain with no expectations of happiness. A likable book - not revelatory but somehow really thoughtful.
  • (4/5)
    A compelling novel which explores different kinds of love, the things we do in the name of love, and the repercussions of the choices we make. While it is well-written and the characters were believable and interesting, there are several parts that make no sense and took me completely out of the story. It would, however, make a terrific book club book.
  • (5/5)
    When I requested this book from Early Reviewers on Library Thing, the reasoning was the story happened in 1969. I lived in Boston in 1969 and experienced the city Lucy loved so much.The novel is a story of love and loss; love of parents, obsessive, elderly love and friendship love. Ms. Leavitt develops such strong characters, the reader finds it easy to care about each of four likable characters. You feel their pain when dealing with grief. One can not feel the anxiety of the characters. Not everyone has a happy ending as in life but the reader will feel the tenderness of loving.
  • (4/5)
    Lucy, a teenage girl growing up in 1969 Boston, runs away from home with her English teacher, settling in rural Pennsylvania to avoid being found. She leaves behind Charlotte, her older sister, and Iris, the woman who the girls have grown up calling their mother. Charlotte & Iris are understandably devastated & struggle to come to terms with Lucy's disappearance. The story alternates viewpoints, exploring Lucy's life in Pennsylvania, Charlotte's struggle to come into her own, and Iris' past and present life. There are several different story lines going on in this one, with a few small surprises along the way.While I can't claim to have loved this book, it was a decent enough read, although I did find a few aspects a little unbelievable. (The age gaps with some of the characters for one, as well as a full 2-week debilitating flu episode which seems highly unlikely in more or less modern times.) I read this on audio, and Xe Sands is not necessarily my favorite reader, which may have affected some of my lack of enjoyment in the story.
  • (4/5)
    Caroline Leavitt is a new author to me and I am so glad I won this ARC fro Library Thing. After the death of their parents, rhe care of Lucy and Charlotte is handed to Iris. Lucy and Charlotte are now aware that Iris is actually their older sister. Charlotte is the responsible younger sister whereas Lucy is flighty and dreamy. Lucy runs off with one of her high school teachers never to see her sisters again. The book follows the life that Lucy has with the controlling William, the ageing issues that Charlotte must confront with Iris and the grief that the sisters have being separated from Lucy.This was such a wonderful book and a nice depiction of the 1970s.
  • (4/5)
    With a backdrop of the tumultuous year of 1969, this novel explores love, family, relationships and fitting in. Sixteen year old Lucy lives with her elderly relative, Iris, when she runs away with her high school teacher leaving Iris and sister, Charlotte, devastated. The relationships and love lives of these three women are thoroughly and beautifully created and the lives of the side characters are very well explored. I did find myself wishing that the sixties played even a bigger role in the story but overall I found this to be both a beautiful and surprisingly suspenseful story. I received this from the LibraryThing giveaway in exchange for an honest review.
  • (5/5)
    Cruel Beautiful World: A Novel by Caroline Leavitt does so many things right that I couldn't possibly list them all. It is the story is about a 16-year-old girl who falls in love with her English teacher, who promptly whisks her off to live in a falling down house in the middle of nowhere, with no access to friends and family. This is a book about a man who abuses a woman. The abuse doesn't happen overnight. Instead, he slowly grooms her over time. The author did an exceptional job answering the question ignorant people often ask about abusive relationships: "But why didn't they just leave?!" It's not that simple and this entire novel slowly and thoroughly answers that question. Another thing I really appreciated about this book was the very tender and sensual sex scene between two elderly people. Old folks are sexual beings too, and this is something that's generally not mentioned at all in fiction and when it is authors generally sort of sweep past it with a few sweet words about those adorable old folks! This scene was about the sensual, erotic nature of sex at any age and avoided falling back on the cloying sweetness. This is a rarity in fiction and was greatly appreciated. Obviously, the subject matter here is difficult. It's hard to follow these characters as they get deeper and deeper into terrible situations. But it also made me rethink how I view loss and memory and a whole host of other things. I highly recommend this book for anyone who's willing and / or interested in getting out of their comfort zone to consider difficult situations from a new perspective. P.S. I received a free galley copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
  • (4/5)
    If you read the blurb and think this is about a 16 year old girl who runs off with her 30 something teacher, you'd be only half right. True, Lucy Gold leaves her sister Charlotte and "Mom" Iris in a quandary over where she could be, and yes, most of the story revolves around Lucy's lonely, sheltered existence in the aftermath. But the offshoots into the backgrounds of the few other characters are handled with ease as well. Iris is lonely but content enough with her life, when she gets the call asking if she'll raise the two little girls she never knew existed. Charlotte is happy to put herself second while always looking out for her little sister, until she no longer can do so. Patrick has his own sadness but seems such a good man. In that time of the Sharon Tate murders, the Kent student killings, and communes, there are so many layers to the story. It all culminates with a few storylines left open ended, and a happy ending for my favorite character who will remain unnamed to prevent spoilers.Thanks to LT Early Reviewers for a lovely book.
  • (5/5)
    Sisters, being raised by their "aunt", come of age. One runs off with her teacher, the other stays closer to home and goes to college.Beautifully told. I could not put this book down. You really get to know the characters back story and feel like you really know them. I was surprised by the ending. It's not what I wanted or imagined, but in a way, because it was a surprise, it was satisfying. It didn't follow the script of what I thought was going to happen. Excellent read.
  • (3/5)
    This was my first experience with Caroline Leavitt's work, and while I enjoyed Cruel Beautiful World, it was not a standout read for me. The time period is a fascinating one, with the Manson trial playing in the backdrop of Lucy and Charlotte's story, but it didn't seem like a real part of the story. It seems as if Leavitt just threw that in to tell you when the events where happening, but didn't really capture the essence of the time period. Leavitt does write characters very well, though, and Charlotte, Lucy, Iris, and Patrick are all fully fleshed-out people, and I wanted to know how their stories were going to turn out. I look forward to reading more of this author's work, as I know many readers rave about her talent.
  • (4/5)
    *I received this book through LibraryThing Early Reviewers.*Time and place are vividly depicted in this rather tragic novel about two sisters, Charlotte and Lucy. Orphaned at a young age, they are raised by an elderly relative and grow to become very different - Charlotte is studious and quiet while Lucy is more outgoing and vivacious. Everything changes for both when Lucy runs away with one of her teachers to live in rural Pennsylvania, throwing her concerned family into turmoil. As Lucy's situation becomes more desperate, her family slowly comes to terms with what they cannot change and must learn to live with. Good reading and highly recommended for those interested in the late 60s.
  • (5/5)
    I received this book as part of the Early Reviewers program. It is the story of two sisters- Charlotte and Lucy. It also is the story of Iris- the aunt/ half sister that is raising the girls as her own. When Lucy runs away with one of her high school teachers, all three lives are changed forever. This is a great story about the bonds of sisterhood and family. I absolutely loved this story and though the ending isn't the traditional ending one would expect, it is the perfect ending. Great read!
  • (4/5)
    Cruel Beautiful World by Caroline Leavitt is the story of two teenage sisters growing up in the 1960's. Charlotte is the older sister, just getting ready to graduate from high school and leave for college. She has always felt a responsibility to look out for her younger sister, Lucy, and protect her first from their irresponsible and manipulative parents and then, after they move in with Iris, from the world at large. Lucy is sixteen and thinks she is mature and ready to experience life. Innocent flirting with the unconventional English teacher turns into a secret relationship. On the last day of school, Lucy and William run away together leaving Charlotte and Iris devastated. They believe that Lucy has disappeared, run off or been abducted. This is definitely a page-turner. It has good suspense and is well-written.(Review based on complimentary Advance Reader copy.)
  • (4/5)
    It took me awhile to sit down and write this review. I've been thinking a lot about this book--it's the kind that creeps up on you, that you suddenly look up from and realize that several hours have passed. This is the story of three women whose decisions and desires often conflict with events in the world around them, leading to heartbreak and even tragedy. Caroline Leavitt is an author who is unafraid of ambiguity, but she is compassionate and clear-eyed about the ways that one might stumble into joyful moments even while mourning great loss. I will certainly keep my eyes open for more works by this author. Thanks to Early Reviewers for the opportunity to read this book.
  • (4/5)
    I won an ARC of this book from LibraryThing. I enjoyed this book much more than I thought I would. It was beautifully written and the author did a fantastic job of pulling you into each of the character's lives. I have not read anything by Caroline Leavitt before but I will definitely be reading more of her books.
  • (5/5)
    I throughly enjoyed the way Leavitt developed characters that I really liked. I was totally unprepared for what happened and the mystery surrounding it although I was very curious how Leavitt would solve the problems her three main characters--all women and related--each had.The unexpected twists and turns in the story and the flow of the whole book made me want to find more books by this author. Although I gave this book five stars I appreciate the review by leighpod, just before mine---the author does cover a lot of ground and leaves you wondering in the end if there should be a sequel to follow up on what is missing, which could easily cover another 300 pages.
  • (5/5)
    I loved this book. The title is very fitting. Timing is everything in life. I don't know if my phone will even save this so no trying very hard. It was a well written book.
  • (5/5)
    This book was amazing. It was moving, thought provoking and hard to put down. I felt a lot of things while reading this book and I am certain every reader will find themselves connected to this book in some way. This is also a great book for book clubs.
  • (4/5)
    Thank you, LT Early Reviewers, for my copy of Cruel Beautiful World.I am a fan of Caroline Leavitt, especially of her novel, Is This Tomorrow. I think her writing is deceptively simple and her characters surprisingly complex.The novel is set in the 1970s. I realized it was crucial to the story of Lucy's disappearance that the time period predates our own era of cell phones and laptops and constant communication. Lucy impulsively runs away with her high school teacher, whom she loves, without realizing she is entering an abusive relationship where she loses control of her life.What is really interesting about the book is that it is not really plot - driven. Instead Leavitt gives us careful character studies of Lucy, her sister Charlotte, their guardian and half-sister Iris, and even of Patrick, a fruit stand owner that befriends Lucy. Iris' and Patrick's back stories are given just as much importance as the story of the two sisters. This is not crime fiction. The story feels very real, life and loss as lived by real people. Highly recommended.
  • (4/5)
    This is the story of three women - Lucy, Charlotte and Iris - living through a time in American history when the Manson gang held the country in its thrall. When their parents die unexpectedly, Lucy and Charlotte are adopted by Iris, their much older half sister who becomes a mother to them. Iris has led a lonely life until the girls enter her life. Her childless marriage was based on an unusual premise, but she was bereft when her husband died. The girls grow to love Iris for her kind, generous nature. A teen-aged Lucy leaves town with William, a teacher and lover twice her age, leaving no notice of her whereabouts. This is a decision she begins to resent when she is isolated from other people due to Michael's fear of incarceration if he is caught with an underage girl. When their relationship ends horrifically, Charlotte is left to pick up the remaining pieces. Caroline Leavitt writes convincingly about the people and their relationships in this engaging novel. My thanks to Library Thing for the opportunity to review this book.
  • (4/5)
    Unbeknownst to her family, Lucy, an impulsive girl runs off with her high school teacher. Her actions leave her family wondering if she is alive or dead. Very tough for me to get into but, once I did, I found the story fascinating - how one decision made, by one person, can impact so many lives. We see how clearly this happens to both Lucy and Iris.
  • (4/5)
    Cruel Beautiful World has a cover showing feminine adolescent tranquility which is completely belied by its plot. True to its title, the book is full of cruelty but Leavitt's depiction of various narrative voices -- including notably the viewpoint of a human predator -- makes it something much more rare than a literary exploration of the darker side of human psychology. It is a first-rate thriller distinguished by its rare ambition in seeking a multi-dimensional depiction of its villain. I couldn't put this page-turner down, and with Leavitt's clean, cold, evocative prose I certainly didn't want to do so either!Please be advised I received a free copy of this novel through the LibraryThing Early Reviewer Giveaway program in exchange for posting this honest review.
  • (5/5)
    I started this book yesterday morning and didn't put it down until I finished it last evening way past my bedtime. It's my first book by this author and I plan to read her earlier books as soon as possible. Cruel Beautiful World is a powerful book about family and love. Lucy and Charlotte are sisters who they went to live with Iris when their parents are killed in a fire when they are very young. The novel begins in 1969 when Lucy is about to run away with one of her high school teachers who is 30 to her 16 years old. Charlotte and Iris are devastated by her disappearance and the book is told from their viewpoints as life continues to go on and Lucy's viewpoint who finds that her plan for 'happily ever after' may not be reality. I am not going to say any more about the plot because I don't want to give anything away but I will say that these three characters are so well written that I felt like I knew them and I cried when they cried. One other main 'character' in this novel is the time period of the late 60s. It was a fearful time with the Manson murders and the anti war protesters and this fear is felt in different ways by all of the characters.This is a powerful fantastic book about family and how we often hurt the ones we love by trying live our lives the way we want to. Lucy, Charlotte and Iris and their struggles will be long remembered by this reader.Thanks to goodreads for a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.
  • (4/5)
    This was a fun summer title. Easy to get involved with the characters and story. Brought this along on vacation and my friend borrowed it.from me.
  • (4/5)
    Iris is sixty-seven when she takes in two small girls after their parents have been killed in a car wreck. She doesn't tell them she is their sister, that they are daughters of the same womanizing man who drifts from one young wife to another, she only says she is a distant relative. She becomes a good mother and the girls bring her a joy she thought she would never have. The girls, Charlotte and Lucy, are very close during their childhood and Charlotte carefully watches over her younger sister. Once they become teens though, a distance begins to grow between the studious Charlotte and the free spirited Lucy. When Lucy is sixteen she falls in love with one of her teachers. It's the 1960s and William fascinates the students, particularly the girls. He's handsome, wears his hair long, opposes the war in Vietnam, doesn't teach from a textbook and encourages his students to question authority. Not surprisingly, he loses his job.Unknown to Iris or Charlotte, by this time Lucy and William have a personal relationship. When William tells Lucy he has a job in Pennsylvania, he asks her to leave Boston with him and she agrees. He also makes her agree not to let anyone know because she's a minor and "they might not understand". When they arrive at the house William has rented for them, Lucy is shocked at the rural and isolated location he has chosen. The school is about 30 minutes away, the closest store is 45 minutes in the opposite direction. There are no close neighbors. Lucy tries to build a life with William but as time passes she begins to realize the romantic relationship she thought she had is something else.
  • (5/5)
    Could not put it down!This book really kept my attention! Parts of it were happy times, but sometimes I was really angry and rooting for Lucy to get away from her controlling boyfriend. Lucy thought that running away with her teacher would be all sugar and spice but she soon found out that it wasn't the case. The book gave the stories of all the characters and how they came to be who they are and how their lives were affected. The book was well written and I felt that I was right there rooting for all the characters.
  • (4/5)
    I am completely behind on reviews, but need to get this off my currently reading list. Hopefully, I can come back and add a real review at some point.
  • (4/5)
    I loved this book, but the characters didn't come to life for me, but the book was a good read. I found a few references to other stories that are VERY similar, which bothered me. Some parts that were supposed to be development of characters were not needed and fell flat with me, at times I wanted to skip ahead...,but then it picked up again. I liked how the characters were just left to journey through their lives, no finished little package. One thing I hated was that the sisters wanted to be so independent yet they jumped from one man to another looking for acceptance, I really wanted more for these characters, especially Charlotte, her character made no sense to me. Lucy was just flighty and I found it hard to like her at all, her choices made absolutely no sense to me....I mean I get the held captive feelings but then again she was looking to be saved by yet another man....she could have went home...idk, it bothered me. I am going to try another book from this author, I enjoyed her writing, maybe this one just wasn't how I anticipated...however, a good east read. I enjoyed the majority of this book.