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Leaving Lucy Pear

  • Paperback $16.00

    Jun 27, 2017 | 336 Pages

  • Hardcover $26.00

    Jul 26, 2016 | 336 Pages

  • Ebook $11.99

    Jul 26, 2016 | 336 Pages

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Praise

Chosen as a must-read book for summer 2016 by TIME Magazine, InStyle, Good Housekeeping, The Millions, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and BookPage

“Gorgeously moving . . . a dazzling exploration of the impact of roads untaken on motherhood, class, and gender. . . . Solomon expertly works on a large, mesmerizing canvas, with an almost dizzying array of characters, each moving the terrific drama of the book. . . . [She] renders each character so exquisitely complex, they could be the heroes of their own novels. . . . It’s impossible to stop reading, because Solomon has made us care so much for all the characters, because she’s fashioned a world so real, you can taste the salt spray and smell the heady fragrance of the ripe pears.” —The Boston Globe

“Solomon’s strong prose and fleet pacing consistently provide the essential pleasures of a good story well told. . . . This is a book governed…by earnest empathy, a desire to give each character opportunities for growth and betterment, bravery and openness.” —Maggie Shipstead, The New York Times Book Review

“Solomon is a beautiful writer, and her prose brings people and scenes achingly alive. . . . Her characters’ struggles with motherhood and identity would be compelling in any era.” —Entertainment Weekly

Leaving Lucy Pear is not just a hypnotic page-turner; it’s also a beautifully written story of women and motherhood played out against a 1920s American historical backdrop. . . . With its lessons about accepting the past and making choices about the future, Leaving Lucy Pear is a satisfying, insightful, and memorable book.” —Jewish Book Council

“Solomon does a good job of showing the ways in which different actors, each trapped by the constraints of sexuality, religion, ethnicity, and class, act and interpret the actions of others. Looking out from their isolated, self-interested or self–protective shells, the characters circle one another, unable to close the chasms that separate them.” —Lilith Magazine

“Anna Solomon’s novel invites you in with tons of atmosphere, from the foggy New England location to the 1920s culture to the gender politics. You’ll get lost in this story, which feels truly new and fresh.” —Good Housekeeping

“Beautiful and expansive . . . The connection between these two mothers, Bea and Emma, is profound and particular.” —Edan Lepucki, The Millions

“With poetic prose but a larger understanding of the precarious world of 1920s New England, Solomon proves herself as one of the most striking novelists of the day.” —The Millions (Most Anticipated: The Great Second-Half 2016 Book Preview)

“Solomon threads class differences and ironies throughout her sophisticated narrative. . . . Through her ornately descriptive style, we get to know the inner and outer selves of the co-mothers.” —The Improper Bostonian

“The worlds of three women collide on the coast of Massachusetts in the 1920s in this beautifully told tale of a young woman’s journey to discover herself.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune

“A thoughtful examination of class in the early twentieth century. . . . Anna Solomon is wise in the ways of mothers and daughters, the ties that bind, the gulfs that separate. Leaving Lucy Pear offers unforgettable characters and many small, meaningful, emotional moments set against the backdrop of larger history, and Lucy Pear, that strong, smart girl, is a character to remember and to root for.” —New Orleans Public Radio’s “Reading Life”

“The well-crafted chapters—some could stand alone as short stories—are handsomely written [and] sometimes poetic. . . . Leaving Lucy Pear is recommended to readers who enjoy historical fiction, a cast of well developed mainly female characters, and handsome prose.” —New York Journal of Books

“Leaving Lucy Pear
 works extremely well on multiple levels . . . but the real highlights are its characters and the author’s clear empathy for them. . . . With delicate precision, Solomon illustrates their desires and fears, both voiced and unvoiced.” —Historical Novel Society

“Spanning the Great War and Prohibition and deftly delving into the social issues of the time, Leaving Lucy Pear is the perfect choice for readers who appreciate the rigor and richness of literary fiction.” —BookPage

“Solomon’s . . . razor-sharp prose scrapes her characters raw as she plants them deeply in the history and turmoil of 1920s New England. A beautifully rendered tale of discovering one’s true nature. Highly recommended.” —Library Journal (starred review)

“Penetrating. . . . Repeatedly opting for the less predictable outcome, Solomon reaches resolutions marked with the same reflective maturity as the rest of this solidly absorbing novel. Slow-movement storytelling: fully-fleshed, compassionate, and satisfying.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Ambitious and satisyfing . . . [a] lushly written look at two women’s haunting choices.” —Publishers Weekly

“Quietly powerful. . . . Solomon excels at portraying flawed characters whose passive-aggressiveness overrides their search for love and success. But when the two mothers play tug-of-war for Lucy, readers cannot help but empathize with all involved. [A] moving story.” —Booklist

“From the first page, I was under the spell of Anna Solomon’s emotionally engaging novel about the devastating choices we make and the unexpected consequences they bring. This is a fine literary tapestry woven with beautiful language, complex characters, and a precise probing of human desires and demons.” —Sue Monk Kidd, New York Times bestselling author of The Invention of Wings

“Anna Solomon writes with a poet’s reverence for language and a novelist’s ability to keep us turning the page. Leaving Lucy Pear is a gorgeous and engrossing meditation on motherhood, womanhood, and the sacrifices we make for love.”—J. Courtney Sullivan, New York Times–bestselling author of Maine and The Engagements

Leaving Lucy Pear is that rare combination of stunning language, raw emotion, and profound wisdom that catches you up and wrings you out and yet somehow leaves you fuller than when you began. In this tender new novel, Anna Solomon looks at our most fundamental relationships—between mothers, children, and lovers—with more compassion and grace than seems humanly possible.” —Celeste Ng, New York Times bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You

“In Anna Solomon’s marvelously textured new novel, Cape Ann in the late 1920s thrums with the issues of the day. When two seemingly dissimilar women become bound to the same child, we’re given a piercing and often profound look at motherhood, what it is and isn’t, as well as the ways suffering makes and unmakes us all, sometimes many times over. Solomon is an enormously gifted writer, and her penetrating tale will linger in your mind long after the last page has turned.” —Paula McLain, New York Times bestselling author of The Paris Wife and Circling the Sun

“A marvel of a novel, bursting with intelligence, insight, compassion, and truth. Anna Solomon is an extraordinarily gifted storyteller.” —Robin Black, nationally bestselling author of Life Drawing

“A mosaic of longing: a cast of characters wrestling with lives they might have led, keeping secrets that could free them, and building uncertain futures. With great empathy, Anna Solomon transports us to an evocative and overlooked time and place in this morally complex and deeply satisfying story.” —Christopher Castellani, author of All This Talk of Love


From the Hardcover edition.

Author Q&A

A Conversation with Anna Solomon

1. What inspired the story you tell in Leaving Lucy Pear?

I grew up where the story takes place, on Cape Ann, Massachusetts, and down below my house was a big field with a few pear trees in it. For a few summers, when the fruit was close to ripe, we would wake up one morning and every single pear would be gone. My dad liked to joke about giraffes or pterodactyls coming in the night, but then he would say, more seriously, that there must be a family that really needed those pears, for food, or to sell. The mystery of that stayed with me.
            And then a few years ago I picked up this old history book called The Saga of Cape Ann, and in it was an anecdote about a wealthy Boston woman who was summering on Cape Ann. She was suffering from a “nervous ailment,” and there was this new whistle buoy in the water that was driving her crazy. So this woman called up the Secretary of the Navy—ha!—and asked him to have the buoy taken out. The following year, it was reported, she’d gotten married, was feeling much better, and allowed the buoy to be put back in the water. A lot of things about this scenario compelled me: the nervous ailment and the notion that getting married fixed it; but also, on a plot level, this whistle buoy. What if, during the time the whistle buoy was out of the water, there was a consequence? A disaster? One that this woman would be responsible for?
            This got my wheels churning, and somehow in my mind it met up with the pear trees—along with an alcoholic drink called perry, which I was introduced to a long time ago in England—and then I saw that the family who stole the pears was going to find a baby in the orchard one year, and that’s how Lucy Pear’s story began to take root.

2. Both Leaving Lucy Pear and your previous novel, The Little Bride, are set in earlier historical eras. What do you like most about writing historical fiction?

The best historical novels not only bring to life the past but also illuminate our present, and I was definitely aware of this as I was writing Leaving Lucy Pear. I started out thinking of the 1920s as this glamorous, glitzy decade but as I wrote and researched I came to understand that it was also an era of virulent bigotry in the United States. Membership in the Ku Klux Klan skyrocketed. Nativism flourished in the wake of World War One, and white supremacists managed to stir up a widespread mistrust of immigrants and anyone else whose color or politics did not match their own. And all this was going on as temperance fanatics (often in the name of religion) attempted to enforce a law more puritanical than anything even the Puritans might have dreamed up.
      So it was a time of extremes. It’s difficult not to perceive a certain resonance with the time we’re living in now.
      I love the research involved in writing historical fiction. In particular, I like getting out of the library and offline and talking with real people who either remember the time period or who have expertise they’re excited to share. I spoke with a bootlegger’s grandson, who remembered seeing booze stored in caves in the walls of the old quarries. And a woman who was a child when the granite quarries were still operational, who told me what it felt like to walk barefoot in the granite dust. And a fishing historian who helped figure out a plot problem for my fisherman. I find that people are very generous with their expertise, and willing to go out of their way to share their stories and perspectives.

3. Why pears and perry rather than apples and cider?

Cider was more common. It still is, at least in the United States. Perry was pretty much an untapped market in the 1920s, which is why Emma has high hopes about what people might be willing to pay for it. And that’s what drives her to go to Josiah Story and see if he’ll help her fund the operation. Of course he winds up helping her in other ways, too . . . but I’ll shut up so as not to spoil the plot.

4. Were many temperance leaders as privately hypocritical as Bea?

Yes! Supporters of Prohibition were notorious for swilling alcohol in private. President Harding is just one example: he voted for Prohibition but kept huge stores of whiskey at the White House. Even Andrew Volstead, whom the National Prohibition Act was named after—it was called the Volstead Act—was known to drink in private. As far as female temperance leaders are concerned, the record is spottier, but I’m quite certain that Bea was not the only “dry” woman to drink Lydia Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound (which was 40-proof!) and enjoy the buzz.

5. Earlier, you coedited a book called Labor Day: True Birth Stories by Today’s Best Women Writers. How does motherhood inform your writing?

Motherhood has changed my life, so it’s also influenced and infiltrated my work. Thankfully, it’s a fascinating, essential subject that allows me to go anywhere—across time, place, culture—and explore human connection and conflict at its most basic and profound. Becoming a mother is in many ways a radical experience, and this cuts across demographics: it’s physically, financially, emotionally, and psychologically life-altering. And while mothering can bring a great deal of joy, it can also bring on a whole lot of struggle and ambivalence. I didn’t abandon my own kids, like my character Bea does, but do I want at times to run away, to escape? Do I feel my own selfhood threatened in certain ways by motherhood? I write about this because I’m compelled by it, and also because it’s one of many things that women feel but are sometimes afraid to express—even to those closest to them.
      I’m also interested in women who either choose not to become mothers, or who can’t. For every birth story I’ve been lucky enough to hear, there are many other stories that go untold. I myself had three miscarriages between my two kids, and got just a taste of the heartbreak and rage that comes with having so little control over such an intimate, seemingly natural process. Yes, there’s IVF now, and other advancements, but these are by no means guarantees. In some ways I think the more advanced our medicine gets, the harder it is for us to accept mystery, and disappointment. And there’s still a lot of stigma attached to infertility and loss in our society, however much we like to think we’ve gotten beyond that. My character Susannah wrestles with that. And you see Emma, the mother of nine who’s been raising Lucy, leaping at a chance to introduce some birth control into her life, even though it’s not permitted by her Catholic faith.

6. How do you view the novelist’s role in society? What do you most want a reader to take away from Leaving Lucy Pear?


I think one of the essential jobs of fiction is to provoke empathy. To imagine your way into a character’s inner world—someone who may be very different from you, who may even seem, at first glance, unlikable or offensive to you—is to acknowledge that person’s worth, their dignity, and their struggle. And when you do this, when you’re open in the way a good novel requires you to be, then inevitably you recognize in this character some part of yourself. Fiction is pro-connection, pro-empathy, pro-equality. Does this make it political? Yes. The novelist’s role is political whether or not she’s writing about “politics.”
      Perhaps it goes without saying, but another key job of the novelist is to entertain. To move and touch and provoke and delight. That shouldn’t be forgotten.
      I didn’t write Leaving Lucy Pear with a particular takeaway in mind. Mostly I wanted to tell an engrossing story. But I do see it as a novel about secrets, and shame, and the costs—to oneself, to one’s family, and, yes, to society at large—when people are forced to hide who they really are, whether because they’re gay, or Jewish, or had a baby out of wedlock, or are in a bad marriage. I hope it pushes readers to reflect on the ways in which we’re still hiding. I hope it provides them with good company, too, and makes them laugh and cry.

7. Can you describe a typical day of writing?

I work at a shared writing space. I get there as soon as I can after dropping off the kids, and I put my butt in a chair and write. I like to move between typing and writing by hand—it helps me get out of ruts and see the material I’m working on anew. I’m also a big fan of the Freedom app that lets you lock yourself out of the Internet. I turn that on and dive in until noon. After that, I have to turn to other work—editing, copywriting, and teaching.

8. Who are some of your favorite authors?

There are too many to list here, but a partial list would certainly include Alice Munro, Annie Proulx, James Baldwin, Michael Chabon, Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie, John Cheever, Edward P. Jones, Elizabeth Strout, Charlotte Brontë, Virginia Woolf, Grace Paley. Is that too many?

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