A big, heartrending novel about the entangled lives of two women in 1920s New England, both mothers to the same unforgettable girl.
One night in 1917, Beatrice Haven sneaks out of her uncle’s house on Cape Ann, Massachusetts, leaves her newborn baby at the foot of a pear tree, and watches as another woman claims the infant as her own. The unwed daughter of wealthy Jewish industrialists and a gifted pianist bound for Radcliffe, Bea plans to leave her shameful secret behind and make a fresh start. Ten years later, Prohibition is in full swing, post–World War I America is in the grips of rampant xenophobia, and Bea’s hopes for her future remain unfulfilled. She returns to her uncle’s house, seeking a refuge from her unhappiness. But she discovers far more when the rum-running manager of the local quarry inadvertently reunites her with Emma Murphy, the headstrong Irish Catholic woman who has been raising Bea’s abandoned child—now a bright, bold, cross-dressing girl named Lucy Pear, with secrets of her own.
In mesmerizing prose, award-winning author Anna Solomon weaves together an unforgettable group of characters as their lives collide on the New England coast. Set against one of America’s most turbulent decades, Leaving Lucy Pear delves into questions of class, freedom, and the meaning of family, establishing Anna Solomon as one of our most captivating storytellers.
ABOUT ANNA SOLOMON
Anna Solomon is the author of The Little Bride and a two-time winner of the Pushcart Prize. Her short fiction and essays have appeared in publications including The New York Times Magazine, One Story, Ploughshares, Slate, and MORE. Coeditor with Eleanor Henderson of Labor Day: True Birth Stories by Today’s Best Women Writers, Solomon previously worked as a journalist for National Public Radio. She was born and raised in Gloucester, Massachusetts, and lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband and two children.
1. The novel’s title most obviously refers to Beatrice’s leaving Lucy in the orchard. What else do you think it means, and how did your understanding of it change as you read the book?
2. Bea and Albert’s marriage could be called a sham. What do you think? What defines a “real” marriage? What about a good one?
3. Bea has made a career out of doing “good works,” but their results—and her motivations—turn out to be morally complex. Have you ever had misgivings about an act of charity (your own or another’s)?
4. Who is Lucy’s mother? How do Bea’s and Emma’s relationships with Lucy speak to different ideas about what it means to be a mother? What experiences have shaped your own definition of motherhood?
5. To that end, what can this novel tell us about what it means to be a biological versus an adoptive parent? In what ways does Emma treat Lucy differently from her other children, and how does this affect Lucy? Do you think it’s possible to be both a member of a family and an outsider?
6. Both Emma and Bea feel torn between their own fulfillment and their obligations to family. What sacrifices do these women make, and do you think these sacrifices would look different if Bea and Emma lived in the present day?
7. The Roaring Twenties are often depicted as carefree years in the United States, but in Leaving Lucy Pear you see how tumultuous the time period really was. Do you see any resonance between the twenties and the times we’re living in now?
For more information and resources, visit www.annasolomon.com/books/leaving-lucy-pear.
For information about Anna’s previous novel, The Little Bride, visit www.annasolomon.com/book-clubs.