Tragedy leads to complicated love as a widower and the woman who accidentally killed his wife are united by a grieving child looking for an angel.
Compassion and a delicate narrative voice lift Leavitt (Girls in Trouble, 2003, etc.) over many if not all the hurdles of sentimentality in this heartstring-tugger, set in Cape Cod, that’s shaped by loss and yearning. Photographer Isabelle Stein, fleeing from her unfaithful husband in foggy weather, suddenly encounters a car containing a woman and a child, the car facing the wrong way in the middle of the road. The unavoidable collision leaves April Nash dead; her nine-year-old asthmatic son Sam only slightly hurt but silent on what he witnessed; and Sam’s father Charlie heartbroken and bewildered. Why was April three hours away from home and traveling with a suitcase? The aftermath of the crash is a struggle for all parties, especially Sam, who sees Isabelle as an angel connected to his mother. The two become friends through photography, and Charlie’s initial anger subsides as he acknowledges childless Isabelle’s genuine affection for the boy. But when Sam learns that the adults have become lovers, the emotional impact makes him ill. Separation follows, then an explanation which liberates Charlie to go after Isabelle. Crossed wires are eventually straightened out, but not predictably.
Heartfelt (everyone cries), deft and highly readable fiction.