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Love in the Present Tense - Catherine Ryan Hyde

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Author: Catherine Ryan Hyde / Genre: Fiction

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    3 Reviews
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      17.05.2009 13:11
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      Hard to put down!

      I was given a pile of books by a friend and this was one of them, I had never read anything by this author - Catherine Ryan Hyde, but will be looking for more of her titles in future.

      THE STORY - is written from three different people's points of view through different stages of their lives', Pearl is a young mother with a terrible secret which she wants to keep at all costs. Leonard is her son who has asthma and problems with his eyesight, he is 5 years old when he first comes into it and the story takes us through to his adult life. Mitch is the neighbour who has his own problems but quite strangely comes into Pearl and Leonard's story. The story shows the depths of a Mothers love for her son and how a child can teach an adult about what he calls 'forever love'.

      MY OPINION - I love it when I find a book that I don't want to put down and when I feel sad when it ends and for me this was one of those books. I loved the style in which it was written - different people describing the same events from their own angle and it was a very easy read.

      This book was shortlisted by Richard and Judy's bookclub for a British Book Award 2007 and it is definately one I would recommend.

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        13.12.2007 16:03
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        Deserves no less than 5 stars but isn't on my all time favourite's list

        I recently finished the last of my books that I had bought on my last book 'splurge' and had nothing left to read, and no money to go out and buy a new book. I'm the sort of girl who has to read every day. I will always make time even if just to fit in one chapter. No matter how tired when I go to bed I always read at least a little of whichever book I have on the go.

        So on my late night quest to find something to read I came across this book which I had bought for my mum for mother's day on her request. At the time I had read the back of the book and not felt much interest for it. However, pickings were slim and I decided to give it a chance.

        When I first started reading the book I was pleasantly surprised to find myself hooked right in. What had meant to be somewhat of a stop gap book until I could buy one I felt more passionate about turned into a book that I was finding hard to put down.

        Right from the first chapter I realised my initial perceptions of this book were off base and the storyline immediately hooked me in.

        The book follows three character's whose lives are intertwined; Pearl who is a teenage but clearly loving and devoted mother to our second character Leonard who has a special quality about him that captivates the hearts of all he meets. Leonard at age five, befriends Mitch, his twenty five year old next door neighbour.

        The back of the book tells very little of the story, which is perhaps what made me lack interest in the first place but it does contain a quote from the book that does lead to you wanting to find out what it means and what has happened in the book; "I didn't know there would ever be a Leonard, or that this man would be his father, or that anybody would have to die."

        Each chapter is dedicated to a different character, sometimes at different ages, both of which are clearly stated. The writing style and language differs depending who is telling us the story, this is executed well and really helps you get more of a feel for the character and also helps you stay in the frame of mind of whoever's view point you are reading. It emphasises how and why this person is thinking this way. For example when we first meet Pearl at thirteen the writing style is not correct English but more accurate to how Pearl actually would have spoke or wrote at thirteen using phrases such as "I didn't get no closer" and "most don't like it any too much". This may annoy some people if correct English is something they like to see in a book, for me it worked well with the character development, as we see Pearl grow up and try hard to speak better as she now has a reason; Leonard, who should be able to look up to his mother. There is also obviously a difference in how Leonard speaks and thinks at the ages he is portrayed, from five to thirty. Not only the ages are shown well through the writing style but it also differentiates the characters so clearly. The author has clearly done this with intention and pulled it off well.

        What is also an important element to the book, is the same events sometimes being portrayed by different characters. You could read about a day Pearl and Leonard spent together, and if it were not for the key elements that remain the same, depending on who is telling you about it you would swear that they were talking of different days. This is done a few times about different things and with different characters. It really works well in setting up how different people experience and remember things differently due to many factors such as age, knowledge or lack of, and feelings (whether they obscure their view somewhat).

        This book is essentially about the relationships between different people and the complexities there are to them. It is showing reasoning behind actions and feelings and illustrating how people aren't all that different from each other after all, they've simply lived through different lives that have shaped them and what they do.

        I suppose I would have to classify this book as a drama with an element of coming of age, or certainly gaining clarity. It is however, so much more than that. It is about people, their actions and how they deal with things that happen.

        I felt this book was really interesting from the very first chapter. It held my interest and it's one of those where I found myself ending up reading more than my chapter a night as I just wanted more, no matter how tired I was. Okay, so it's meant lack of sleep whilst having this book on the go but there's nothing better than a book you actually look forward to reading and only stop reading when you absolutely must.

        I think the book will probably appeal to women, possibly more to mothers, although I think the main appeal is for anyone who just loves a real people story that delves into the actions and reasoning of other people. The book obviously appeals to quite a wide age range as both I and my mum have enjoyed this book. That said I doubt people younger than their twenties would have much interest in it. I don't see this as being a particularly male book, although I'm not sure why. There's nothing too mushy here but something about it makes me feel it's based more towards women.

        This is quite a short book, which for me is I suppose a slight negative. I do like long in depth stories. That said I enjoyed it thoroughly from start to finish to it is hard to find fault with this book.

        The author Catherine Ryan Hyde is an acclaimed novelist and award winning short story writer, which perhaps explains why the book is relatively short compared to most I read. She has several books behind her but I've read none of these so far, so I can't compare them. One of her books, Pay It Forward won ALA Book of the year and was subsequently made into a film with top name actors Kevin Spacey and Helen Hunt starring in it. I haven't seen this movie so I can't really comment, but if you have seen it and liked that, maybe you would like this.

        The plot didn't really hold any surprises as such, yet somehow it hooked me in. By the time I'd finished the book, nothing had happened that shocked me, if you had asked me to tell you how each characters storyline would pan out right near the start I probably could have answered you. However, somehow, it didn't feel like a let down like that does in some cases. I didn't have that "well that was predictable" feeling, I felt like the plot was merely a tool used to help us understand the characters better and I feel the book achieved it. By the end I could understand everyone's actions and feelings and have empathy with all the characters. It is rare a book does that, usually you are supposed to be rooting for just one character but that is not the case here.

        All in all this is a book about human understanding, and love, in the present tense.

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          02.08.2007 17:33
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          A wonderful read :-) a Richard and Judy Book Club book

          This is the second of this year’s Richard and Judy book club books that I have read and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

          ~ The Author ~

          Catherine Ryan Hyde is an acclaimed novelist and award-winning short-story writer. She wrote Pay It Forward, which was made into a feature film starring Kevin Spacey and Helen Hunt. She lives in California.

          ~ The Book ~

          “So much of how it was started when that cop got out and came up to me. But I didn’t know all this when it first happened. I didn’t know there would ever be a Leonard, or that this man would be his father, or that anybody would have to die”

          I thought this was a very powerful quote on the back of the book and it really made me want to read it. I thought it was intriguing. The rest of the blurb goes onto to introduce Leonard, Pearl and Mitch (the three main characters in the book)

          Pearl is Leonard’s devoted teenage mother, trying to hide a secret from her past. Leonard is five years old and has asthma and vision problems. Mitch is Pearl and Leonard’s 25-year-old neighbour who runs his own company and is having an affair with the Mayors wife. One day Pearl drops Leonard at Mitch’s home and never returns… (This is not spoiling anything for the reader – it’s on the back of the book)

          Each chapter is from a different character, some when Leonard is five and other chapters are when he is older. I really like books, which have chapters from different characters, as I feel I get a more rounded picture of the characters and the story line.

          * Leonard *

          I found Leonard to be a charming young boy, who I grew to love quite quickly. Leonard is quite wise for a five-year-old and I really enjoyed reading his chapters. As the reader I felt for Leonard with his asthma and vision problems. Leonard writes some chapters as a young boy of five, but as the book progresses there are chapters from him as a teenager as well as an adult. I felt this made the book even more unputdownable as it made me feel like I had watched Leonard growing up.
          Leonard often refers to ‘Forever Love’ and this really made me think about the true definition of love. Leonard is a wonderful character and I enjoyed reading his chapters very much.
          Leonard does not know where Pearl goes after she disappears, but the reader does. This explained a lot to the reader but I wanted to tell Leonard the truth. Leonard feels like Pearl is still with him though obviously not in person.

          * Pearl *

          Pearl writes the first chapter of the book. I think this sets the scene nicely and it helps us understand what happens in the lead up to the birth of Leonard. English is not Pearl’s first language and the writing in the chapter heavily reflects this. I don’t like incorrect English so this bothered me and I hoped it wasn’t going to be like this the whole way through the book. However, the other chapters are written in correct English and by Pearl’s second chapter she is trying to improve her English. I think this does help the reader learn a bit more about Pearl, so looking back I think it was good that this was done, even though I found it a little irritating at first.
          Despite having a child so young (thirteen years old) it is clear to see that Leonard is her world. She is a devoted, caring and loving mother who always puts her child first. I enjoyed reading about Pearl.

          Some events that Pearl describes between her and Leonard are repeated in Leonard’s chapters. However, it is clear to see that one person is a child and the other an adult because the perspectives of the events reflect this. I enjoyed reading both perspectives and they are not right next to each other in the book so it makes for a pleasant read.

          * Mitch *

          Mitch is Pearl and Leonard’s neighbour and he runs his own company. Mitch often looks after Leonard when Pearl goes to work so one day when she doesn’t turn up to pick him up he suspects that she will return sometime soon. As days turn to months, Mitch is left looking after Leonard while managing his own company as well as fitting in time for his social life with the mayors wife.
          I enjoyed reading Mitch’s chapters, yet although he was lovely with Leonard and he did come across as a nice man he was my least favourite character out of the three. That is not to say that I didn’t like him, just that I felt more attached to Pearl and Leonard.

          I thought the style of this book was really effective and once I started it I couldn’t put it down. It was a wonderful story about the lives of these characters and the love each one had for others. A message, which certainly came across strongly for me, was that love can come from surprising sources yet it doesn’t make it any less magical or true. Also, just because Mitch wasn’t Leonard’s birth father didn’t mean he didn’t love Leonard as his own son.

          This book was heart warming and enchanting and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I would recommend it whole-heartedly.

          I have given this book a mark out of 10 for four different elements of the book. I have then given it an overall rating. I will do this for each of the Richard and Judy Book Club books to see how they compare.

          Story – 9/10
          Style – 8/10
          Characters – 9/10
          Readability – 9/10

          35/40 = 88%

          ~ Boring Stuff! ~

          RRP £6.99 (can be found cheaper on Amazon or from the Richard and Judy Book Club)
          Paperback: 304 pages
          Publisher: Black Swan
          Language English
          ISBN-10: 0552773646

          Thanks for reading!

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        • Product Details

          Mitch is a 25-year-old with commitment issues. Leonard is a five-year-old kid with asthma and vision problems, who captivates everyone he meets. Pearl is Leonard's teenage mother, who's trying to hide a violent secret from her past. Life has given Pearl every reason to mistrust people, but circumstances force her to trust her neighbour, Mitch. Then one day, with a heart full of agony, Pearl drops Leonard off with Mitch and never returns. Pearl, Leonard and Mitch each have a story to tell and as their lives unfold, profound questions arise about the nature of love and family. How do you go on loving someone who isn't there? With Leonard's absolute conviction in 'forever love' always present, Leonard and Mitch grow up side by side and piece together the layered truths and fictions of their almost magical lives. The answers are heartbreaking, but ultimately triumphant.