The last two days have been a blur reading Cruel Beautiful World. It as if someone tapped on my shoulder and whispered this story in my ear. Immediately connected to the characters in this phenomenal new novel, I could hear their voices, picture their faces. I could not escape from the stories within the stories. It is 1969 and Charlotte and Lucy come to Waltham, MA to live with Iris, their Mother-like, Aunt-like, Half- sister caretaker - after they are tragically orphaned. Two beautiful little girls entering a new life. Iris, who always dreamed of love and family finds raising these little girls late in life a blessing she could have never fully imagined. Years later, seduced by the idea of what grown-up means Lucy disappears. Charlotte, always the big sister, who has cared for Lucy’s every need turns her back for a moment as she desperately plans her college future and “poof” - she is gone, just like that. And so begins the next story, Lucy’s coming of age in the time of “free love,” realizing too late that it is not so free after all. The love, friendship, devotion and family ties of these characters is extraordinary. The hints of what is coming next is both shocking and mesmerizing. While you cheer and hope for all their well being the reader is magically lost in this beautiful prose written by author Caroline Leavitt. This may be her best novel yet, or do I say that every time? Highly recommend Cruel Beautiful World and thank you Net Galley for the opportunity to read this fantastic new novel.