Leaving Lucy Pear
By Anna Solomon
Brought to you by OBS reviewer Una
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-WWI 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.
This is a complex story of two women and their families from different societal worlds whose lives become entangled due to the birth of Lucy Pear. Beatrice a music prodigy is sexually taken advantaged of and becomes pregnant in her teens. Her wealthy Jewish parents send her to her Uncles to have the baby but expect her to commit to her career when the baby is born. The baby girl is to be sent to an orphanage however Beatrice won’t condemn her to that life and decides to leave her under the pear trees where she knows the Irish families come to steal pears. Beatrice’s life is never the same after that decision and she never really can commit to any type of relationship.
The baby is picked up and raised by Emma Murphy along with her natural children. Both Emma’s and Beatrice’s lives become weaved together when Emma becomes caregiver to Beatrice’s Uncle.
Both families’ complexities were hard to follow at times but I for one got immersed in the setting of prohibition in the 1920’s and the complicated lives of women at that time. Mothers having to do almost anything to put food on the table, their children having to try and survive through wit and brawn and the very male dominated society that was the time, all told by the actions and story of Lucy Pear herself.
Lucy Pear although older than her 11 years decides to go and find her brother who moved to Canada. To do that she knows she has to earn enough for her train ride. Even when she finds out that Beatrice is her mother she does not take it for granted that money will be easy come by. She stays loyal to Emma and her siblings. The story touches a little on Emma’s husband’s abuse of the children but that story line really doesn’t get resolved other than the children go with Emma and live in the big house with Beatrice and her uncle.
The only part of the book I found difficult was the ending when Lucy goes on the train by herself. There is no closure as to whether the meeting up with her brother goes well or whether she gets sent back home. Perhaps that is another book. I for one would like to continue with the life story of Lucy Pear.