Love in the Present Tense by Cathrine Ryan Hyde
An atmospheric novel about the love between a five year old boy and his mother, and between the boy and his unlikely carer left in charge after Pearl, the mother disappears. After killing a police officer in strange circumstances five years ago, Pearl has then to pay the price. This is an inspiring story of love and belief.
This is a gem of a book for anyone who likes a good moving story, a bit of spiritual content and a child centred plot. The story is told in narrative style of the three voices of the main characters which keeps the story very interesting as it switches perspective and also mixes up the chronological trail. Pearl is thirteen when she gets pregnant by a policeman, and ends up shooting him by accident. She is haunted by this and fearful of being caught for the murder although she was the one abused by the policeman. The three main characters are, Pearl, who loves her son completely and unconditionally, Leonard who at first seems so vulnerably but is in fact full of wisdom, and Mitch the unlikely caretaker father. The story delighted me with the naive values and principals of Leonard’s mother, to the insight and vulnerability of a five year old boy.
The inconsistencies in the memories that Leonard has, compared to his mother, of his fourth birthday day out, are so true to life and show how his mother succeeded in protecting him from unpleasantness. Leonard catches your heart as a magical boy who sees other peoples hurt as more important than his own. He copes with his mother’s disappearance because he feels her presence always close to him. Both Leonard and Mitch need each other and form a strong, unlikely relationship which endures till adulthood. Leonards wisdom is illustrated in how he feels other peoples pain, when he goes to kindergarten for the first time he manages not to cry long enough for another boy to cry and take the punishment, by thinking about his mother. Eventually when he had to move to foster care he `had to be big about it’ because Mitch was so sad. They are so close, and this continues to adulthood. The descriptions of the illicit affair between Mitch and his lover and its messy ending are told with a lot of insight and with economic realistic prose. Leonard describes forever love in a way that will pull at your emotions and the book and its characters will stay in your memory for a long time. A very unusual book I’m pleased to have read.