Love in the Present Tense by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Title:  Love in the Present Tense
Author:  Catherine Ryan Hyde
Release date:  May 30, 2006
Publisher:  Vintage
Pages:  272
Genre:  Contemporary fiction
Source:  Personal copy

Pearl is an eighteen-year-old mother to five-year-old intelligent, precocious Leonard.  Mitch is their twenty-five-year-old next door neighbor, who takes care of Leonard during the day while Pearl is at work (he owns his own business, and works out of a home office).  One day, Pearl drops Leonard off at Mitch’s in the morning, as usual, and never returns. Love in the Present Tense is a story about how love comes in many shapes and sizes, many different packages, and about how one boy, with no parents to speak of, can be loved by so many people.

I cannot tell you how long I’ve owned this book and did not read it.  When I saw it on audio at the library, I decided to pick it up even though I had a paper copy at home – I knew I wanted to read it, so I figured it was as good a way to do so as any.  Let me just start by saying that if you plan to read this book, I HIGHLY recommend doing so via audio (if you’re into audiobooks, that is).  The three points of view are done by three different people, so it’s really like getting inside these characters’ minds.  It was a great experience.

I definitely enjoyed Love in the Present Tense.  It was the exact kind of achingly beautiful story that I love to read.  Pearl, Mitch, and Leonard became very real to me, and their lives were just so rough, with so many obstacles, and yet love conquered all in the end.  I LOVE books about love.  They restore my faith in humanity.  This book is exactly that kind of novel.

This is the kind of book that can easily be ruined with spoilers, even though there aren’t too many huge plot twists, the story itself is best left without much information going in.  Leonard is a wonderful character with a huge personality (even though he has a tiny body).  Pearl is just a woman who became pregnant at an incredibly young age, and did the best she could to raise her son by herself with very few resources.  And Mitch is the person who got involved in this family completely by mistake – and Leonard ended up taking over his entire life (in a good way).  Nobody in this book is perfect, but there is a common theme of everyone doing their best with what they’ve got.  Pearl taking care of Leonard the best she can, Mitch loving and protecting Leonard with as much of his heart as he can give, and Leonard loving Pearl unconditionally knowing that she left him when he was just five years old.

Love in the Present Tense is really a story about the redemptive power of love.  About how life is so hard, so difficult, but when you have someone to love and someone who loves you, it can be made just that much easier, just a bit easier to cope with.  The book really got to me emotionally and I would highly recommend reading it for yourself.