Cover Image: Days of Wonder

Days of Wonder

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Member Reviews

I’ve been a huge fan of Caroline Leavitt’s books going on at least twenty years if not more. When I first discovered her brilliant novels, I quickly read everything she’d written and then eagerly awaited her next novel. Every time I learn she’s coming out with something new, I cannot wait to read it and immediately add it to my Goodreads list so I have something to look forward to.

Her latest is Days of Wonder and it doesn’t disappoint. With her special way of getting the reader attached to the characters, your heart breaks a million times as you love and care for the people in this book.

Here is the plot:

As a teenager, for a moment, Ella Fitchburg found love—yearning, breathless love—that consumed both her and her boyfriend, Jude, as they wandered the streets of New York City together. But her glorious life was pulled out from beneath her after she was accused of trying to murder Jude’s father, an imperious superior court judge. When she learns she’s pregnant shortly after receiving a long prison sentence, she reluctantly decides to give up the child.

Ella is released from prison after serving only six years and is desperate to turn the page on a new life, but she can’t seem to let go of her past. With only an address as a possible lead, she moves to Ann Arbor, Michigan, determined to get her daughter back. Hiding her identity and living in a constant state of deception, she finds that what she’s been searching for all along is a way to uncover—and live with—the truth. Yet a central mystery endures: neither Jude nor Ella can remember the events leading up to the attempted murder—that fateful night which led to Ella’s conviction.

Like with all of her books, this one is deeply layered and keeps you fully engaged. I highly recommend it! Out on April 23.

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Ella found her true love at the young age of 15. She and Jude were immediately drawn to each other, and attached at the hip from that moment on. While Ella’s mom treated Jude as her own, his father was vehemently against their relationship. He certainly had his own secrets to keep though, secrets that led to an attempt on his life. An attempt that Ella was blamed for and jailed for the past 6 years. Now that she is out, she is determined to find the daughter she had to give up for adoption while she was behind bars.

Whew! This is a book about love, heartbreak, motherhood, loss, hope, family, guilt, innocence, and so much more. This is not a light read by any means, but dang was it fantastic. Leavitt just has such a way of weaving a story. I will say at the beginning, I didn’t really feel like any of the characters were all that likable, but as the book goes on I fell in love with each and every one of them. Ok, maybe there was one exception, though by the end I still disliked them, but more so pitied them, which is kind of worse to be honest. The first half moved a bit slow, not in a bad way, but once I hit 50% I finished this book in one sitting and stayed up way past my bedtime to do so. I am always blown away by Caroline Leavitt’s books and this one was no exception!

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Teenagers from different backgrounds fall in love, and it ruins their lives.

Ella, daughter of a single mother who lives in Queens, meets and falls in love with Jude, the son of a wealthy and influential widower federal judge who lives in a palatial home on the Upper East Side. The differences in their circumstances don’t bother them, they are completely and madly in love and are sure that they will have a future together. Ella’s mother Helen, raised in a strict Hasidic household from which she was expelled as a teen, is surprised by the relationship but accepting of it. Having Jude spend time at her house reminds Helen of the family gatherings of her childhood which she misses, and Helen’s warmth and acceptance fill a void in Jude’s life. Judge Stein is not pleased with the relationship at all, and does all that he can to separate the young lovers. When the Judge announces that he has taken a new job in Philadelphia and that he and Jude will be moving there before the start of school, Jude and Ella are devastated, but their pleas are ignored. In desperation they try to find a way to forestall the inevitable, and make a terrible choice. As a result of events that followed that choice, Ella is sentenced to 25 years in prison, where she finds out that she is pregnant with Jude’s child. But Jude has cut all ties with Ella, and with few options Ella is persuaded to give their child up for adoption. When she is released from prison early due to technical faults with the trial, she is a felon but is at least free to start her life anew. Helen assumes that they will create a new life together, but Ella wants to forge a new life on her own. She also desperately wants to know why Jude, who had sworn his undying love, had so readily abandoned her and also what happened to their child. As she pursues her goals, she does so while concealing the truth of her past from the new people in her life. Meanwhile her mother is also at a crossroads, devastated by Ella’s departure and still regretting the losses of her own past. Can Helen find the courage to put the past behind her and seek happiness for herself? Will Ella’s new life be enriched or destroyed by her own attempts to resurrect parts of her past? And what really happened the night everything went terribly wrong?
Author Caroline Leavitt has created a heartbreakingly beautiful tale of love, family, and redemption. Each character is brought vividly to life, as are the settings where this well-crafted story take place. Just as in real life there are no clear cut right or wrong choices, but each choice made will have a consequence….and not always one that could be predicted. The headiness of first love, the ties of family that can both support and constrict, the powerful relationship between parent and child, and the danger of secrets kept hidden from those one loves all combine to make this compelling story feel so genuine. It was hard to put down, and every bit as difficult not to fall in love with Ella and Jude and root for the happily-ever-after that they deserve but are unlikely to achieve. Readers of authors like Julia Glass, Ann Patchett and Ann Napolitano will appreciate the beautiful prose and engrossing story found within the covers of Days of Wonder….it is a novel to savor. Many thanks to NetGalley and Algonquin Books for allowing me early access to this enthralling tale of empathy and redemption.

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I had to give up on this book, so can't provide a full review. I really enjoyed the opening and was intrigued by the premise. But once it switched to the mother's POV, it no longer rang true to me, as the daughter's imprisonment seemed to disappear from her mind. I'm not sure, it wasn't working for me and found myself not returning to it.

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I really liked this one, what a powerful story about motherhood and parenting and family. It wasn’t exactly but I expected but I enjoyed it just the same, would make for great book club discussion.

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This was a quiet and meditative novel where the writing really flowed. It went by fast. I liked how it showed how development is affected through incarceration and what there is to learn on the outside. There is a lot to this story including commentary on adoption, young love, and growth.

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[arc review]
Thank you to NetGalley and Algonquin Books for providing an arc in exchange for an honest review.
Days of Wonder releases April 23, 2024

Ella is 22 years old, and has just been released from a minimum-security prison after pleading guilty to the attempted murder of her boyfriend’s father, who was a New York judge at the time.
We start to see her reacclimate to life, which includes a new job as an advice columnist in Ann Arbor — the same city where the adoptive parents of her birth child live.

This story is told in multi-pov with some flashback chapters from Ella, her mother, and Jude (Ella’s boyfriend at the time).

Ella and Jude had this all-consuming, life changing love that is rare to come across at the age of 15. They came from differing backgrounds and economic brackets, but were drawn to each other nonetheless. More than that though, was this sense of home that Jude unexpectedly found with Ella and Helen, and his time with them became his safe space away from an abusive and alcoholic father.

Days of Wonder was structured in a way that kept you hooked with a slowly drawn out plot in order to reach the literal end to see what really happened during their sleep-deprived moments, however, once I reached that point, it came across as pretty underwhelming.
All the loose ends tie up (a little too neatly) with the child and seeking forgiveness; nothing quite felt satisfactory to me and I would have liked more from Jude’s pov.

cw: physical and emotional abuse, mention of rape, self harm, suicide attempt + ideation, manipulation

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I still think about how much I loved Caroline Leavitt's CRUEL BEAUTIFUL WORLD and while I didn't love her other books, I was so excited to dive into her latest DAYS OF WONDER. The story is interesting - Ella is a 21 year old who is released from prison after 6 years of doing time for attempted murder of her boyfriend's father. She is picked up by her mother and as soon as she gets back to their apartment, she starts to Google the boyfriend (who never wrote or came to visit her), as well as try to find out what happened to their child who Ella had in prison and gave up for adoption.

First of all, whew! That's a great start to a novel right? I really did enjoy the plot, but I think my issue with the book is the weak dialogue and bad character development. It all felt a little expected and unsurprising, though there is a somewhat interesting twist towards the end of the book. It's a great book for a classic general fiction, but it's not a well-written book and while I didn't hate reading it, I was surprised that I didn't like it more than I thought I would.

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This multi-layered narrative will ring true for young adult and women’s fiction readers. Joyful in some parts, so heartbreaking in others, Days of Wonder will transport you to the abandon of first love and the pain of secrets, judgment, betrayal, and loss. Some sections might profit from more dialogue rather than descriptive summary, but it is mostly a cinematic, engaging, thought-provoking story.

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"Days of Wonder" is like a bowl of heaped bowl of spaghetti with each noodle a different story strand. These is so much to this book and it is so masterfully paced that you will dig in with gusto and enjoy every bite.

The novel opens with Helen driving to the state prison to pick up her daughter who is being released early. Ella was sentenced to twenty-five years for the attempted murder of her boyfriend's judge father, but her case has been thrown out. She entered prison at fifteen and is being released at six years later, and she the thing she wants most is to find the baby she gave birth to in prison, who has been adopted in a closed adoption. This seems like such a bad idea, more and more after you learn more about the circumstances of the child's birth. Helen is just to happy to have Ella with her and promises herself to let Ella make her own way.

There is so much emotion and compassion in this book, which touches on issues of class, religion, and family abuse. There are so many ingredients in Caroline Leavitt's novel that it consistently surprises. I ached for the characters found the end satisfying and believable.

I was so glad to be approved to read and review this novel by NetGalley and Algonquin Books. This is my honest review.

__Candace Siegle, Greedy Reader

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I read a few of Caroline Leavitt's books in the past and always enjoyed them. I was excited to see that she had a new one.

This is the story of Helen, her teenage daughter Ella and Ella's boyfriend, Jude. The story is complex and multi-layered. Many secrets threaten relationships.

The characters are well-developed. My feelings about them change several times during the story. Like, dislike, pity, empathy, admiration, respect. As the story changes, my feelings change.

Poor choices are made, and bad things happen to good people. But, there is also redemption and hope.

The story is well-written, the plot moves ahead smoothly. The focus changes from one character to another. The pages keep turning. Sometimes I thought it was a bit too dramatic, but sometimes life is like that. It certainly kept me reading.

The ending was good. It wasn't completely definitive but I can tie up the ends in my mind the way I want to.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the Advance Readers Copy.

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Who doesn’t love a good drama? Secrets, family relationships, the love between a mother and a daughter, first love- this book has it all! What would you do for someone you love? How far would you go?

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This didn’t work for me. Many parts of the story felt contrived and implausible. I couldn’t connect with the main characters and didn’t believe they acted in real, believable ways. Not the right book for me right now.

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I want to start by saying I loved it. I read it in one sitting, that’s how much I was sucked in to Days Of Wonder.

We first meet Ella as she’s being released from prison. We get to know her now, and over the past few years, concurrently. We get to know her mother and her boyfriend, as well, along with their relationships with Ella. These stories are rich, interesting and nuanced, just like human beings.

I often find myself put off by endings. They are often too neat and tidy. After finding out what needed to know about Ella, Helen, Jude and the secrets they keep, the story ends. It’s hopeful, with promise for the future but not perfectly wrapped up with a bow. That feels so right.

Days Of Wonder is a must read. Thanks to NetGalley + Algonquin books for the advanced copy. All opinions are my own.

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When we first meet Ella, she is being released from prison, after serving six years of a twenty-five year sentence for attempting to murder her high school boyfriend's father. Ella's single mother Helen, who was raised in an insular Hasidic Jewish community, is there for her daughter, smothering her in love and suggesting that the two of them leave New York City for a small town that won't know about Ella's notoriety.

But Ella has other plans. While in prison, she gave birth to boyfriend Jude's baby and is now determined to find her child. With some highly improbable snooping, she learns that she has a daughter who lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan with her adoptive parents. Ella lies to Helen about why this college town appeals to her, finds a job writing a weekly advice column (that pays enough to live on?), and starts a new life that elides her past.

I had trouble connecting to the novel's characters, who frequently behave like actors in a mediocre Lifetime movie drama. We follow Ella as she makes a series of bad decisions in Ann Arbor, and Helen as she tries to make a life for herself after focusing solely on her daughter for 22 years. There are also flashbacks to the star-crossed romance between Ella and Jude, complete with an Evil Ogre who tries to keep the lovers apart, and the act that resulted in Ella's incarceration. The plot occasionally drops in on present-day Jude, whose character isn't developed much beyond Poor Little Rich Boy. Both Ella and Helen are presented with potential new romantic partners, but the men are barely three-dimensional and feel superfluous, especially for Ella.

The story's most emotionally resonant relationship is between Ella and Helen. The flashbacks to Helen's expulsion from the Hasidic community explain her desire to recreate a feeling of belonging with her daughter. Despite their love, the two women hurt each other both purposefully and inadvertently, but when Ella's world comes undone a second time, their relationship pulls her through. By the book's conclusion, their bond is healthier, allowing Ella to demonstrate newfound maturity in her decisions, and Helen to finally start living her own life.

The characters and plot of Days of Wonder were too melodramatic for my tastes. YMMV if you're okay with almost constant angst that includes triggering passages about biological and adoptive parents.

ARC received from Net Galley in exchange for objective review.

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Thank you NetGalley and Algonquin Books for the copy of Days Of Wonder by Caroline Leavitt. The power of first love! The intricacies of parent-child relationships! A young woman paying for a terrible
crime! This book has something for everyone. Leavitt’s characters were unforgettable, coming alive on the pages of gorgeous prose. I loved this book and thought about it when I wasn’t reading. This book is for you if you want a compelling and emotional read.
4.5 stars rounded up to 5.

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This is a beautifully written, highly emotional story of young love and the tragic circumstances of one night. It’s also the story of a mother/daughter relationship and all the good and bad that inherently goes along with that. It’s a story about the lengths a mother will go to for her child and the lengths a young couple will go to for love.

The writing is superb, the plot is engaging and the ending is perfect. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It’s simply perfect, 5/5 stars!

Thank you, NetGalley and Algonquin books for the ARC.

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Ella Fitchburg had all the yearnings of a young teenage girl, mostly she dreamed of falling in love. She was raised by her single mom who had grown up in a Chasidic community in Brooklyn, exiled when she brought the family shame. The two of them lived a simple life with no extended family and few friends. When Ella meets Jude at a party they share an instant connection. Although Ella is pretty and smart, Jude’s domineering and abusive father, a Judge, forbids the young couple from spending so much time together. When sneaking around becomes too much, the young lovers make one bad decision after another. Accused of trying to poison the Judge, Ella is sentenced to 25 years and Jude disappears. With an early release after only six years Ella tries to rebuild her life. Her mother does everything she can to make Ella comfortable but her attentions are suffocating and Ella is overtaken by an obsession to find the daughter she birthed and put up for adoption while she was in prison. When an address leads to the adoptive parents living in Ann Arbor, Michigan this is where Ella reestablishes her life. Living in constant fear of her actual identity being revealed, Ella lives in a world full of secrets and constant distress. As the story is narrated between the past and present the reader finally learns what really happened that momentous night, the night that changed everything. I really wanted to love this but didn’t. The writing is excellent but there is a lot of repetition and unlikable characters that are tough to root for. It could have been edited down and become a much smoother read. On the fence with this one.

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Caroline Leavitt has written another emotional moving novel.My heart went out to Ella a young girl who fell madly in love with Jude and do to repercussions from their love affair her life took a terrible turn.So well written so involving.#netgalley #days of wonder

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What a moving read! Caroline Leavitt writes novels that stay with you and her latest novel, Days of Wonder, most definitely will grab you by the heart. This novel centers around Ella Fitchburg and her mother, Helen, and the intricacies of a mother/daughter relationship. The storyline time hops between Ella at age 15 and 22, and the night that forever changes them and the domino effect thereafter. I was captivated the entire way through and highly recommend this 5 star novel! Days of Wonder is a character-driven novel that would make a perfect book club selection!

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