Leaving Lucy Pear

by Anna Solomon

Book, 2016



Call number




New York, NY Viking, 2016


"From the first page, I was under Anna Solomon's spell." --Sue Monk Kidd From the author of The Book of V., a novel chosen as a must-read book by TIME Magazine, InStyle, Good Housekeeping, The Millions, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and BookPage Set in 1920s New England, the story of two women who are both mothers to the same unforgettable girl--a big, heartrending novel from award-winning writer Anna Solomon 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. "Anna Solomon writes with a poet's reverence for language and a novelist's ability to keep us turning the page. A gorgeous and engrossing meditation on motherhood, womanhood, and the sacrifices we make for love." --J. Courtney Sullivan… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member bayleaf
A baby is left by a pear tree and adopted by the Murphy’s, a family of Irish “pickers” who raid the pear trees on a regular basis, arriving by boat in the middle of the night. Beatrice Haven, wealthy, Jewish, and the baby’s unwed mother, is distraught at the thought of giving the child to
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an orphanage and knowing of the Murphy’s evening visits, sneaks out of the house, leaves her infant girl at the base of the tree and hopes she’s found and treated well by her new family. Ten years later and now Beatrice Cohn, childless and a public figure in the women’s temperance movement, cares for her uncle Ira in the same home and remains haunted by her past. Unbeknownst to Bea, her daughter lives not too far from her and is being raised by Emma Murphy, her uncle’s nurse. The child is called Lucy Pear. This is not only Lucy’s story, but also Emma’s and Bea’s, two mothers and a young girl, caught up in a web of secrets and buried truths. The setting for Leaving Lucy Pear is the period of the Prohibition Movement, the Sacco and Vanzetti trial, a time of general mistrust of anything or anyone deemed “foreign.” Anna Solomon has written an engaging, human novel of love, loss and family.
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LibraryThing member Cherylk
I thought that this book was a fine book. In the beginning I actually did find myself very into the story. I felt sorry for Beatrice. However on the other hand, Emma I did not care for as much. Yeah I could understand why she was having an affair but even that was portrayed as more of convenience
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then Emma finding someone else that she shared a connection towards. Beatrice on the other hand may have come from wealth but she seemed more down to earth and charming. Thus I gravitated towards her more. The issue I had with this book is that even though I liked Beatrice she was not enough to help me stay engaged with the story. It is funny as other readers mention having problems keeping all of the many characters straight. This was not such a problem for me as I was able to keep them straight. My issue was again that I could not get excited for any of the characters and thus the story was alright. Yet, the last third of the story was good, how it all came together.
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LibraryThing member bookczuk
When I heard about this on NPR, I though it was going to end up a favorite. As it was, I found the story mildly interesting but nowhere near the fascination I'd anticipated. (Case in point: I was half-way through when we went away for 5 days. I had no problem leaving the book, unfinished, home, and
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did have a bit of a hesitance picking it up again to complete. Not my usual M.O.)

There were moments of stunning eloquence, though, and one of these was the passage the author read in the interview I heard. Also of note was the brief, but important moment when Charleston (my home town) played a role, even if it was the old Naval base, not the town itself.

tags: 2016-read, heard-interview-with-author, i-heard-about-it-on-npr, read, rounded-up-in-star-rating, thank-you-charleston-county-library, thought-i-was-gonna-like
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LibraryThing member froxgirl
Whew, what a complicated and twisty tale from a land I love - Gloucester, MA. The novel, set in 1917, begins with an accidental pregnancy and draws in a large Irish family and it's heroic matriarch, Emma, along with a wealthy Jewish family and their errant daughter. There's also a local politician
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whose marriage to a granite quarry owner's daughter turns miserable when they are unable to have a child. So there's one child too many and one too few, and although there's no direct swap, each circumstance impacts all three families. Told in five points of view, and with nine Murphy children, it's a bit tough to keep track, but the author gets deeply inside each head and tells each truth very potently. Lucy Pear, the accidental child, is a wonder: "She wasn't old enough yet to know that having choices could be as hard as not having them." There is room for a sequel, hopefully, as Lucy is only 10 at the novel's close.
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LibraryThing member charl08
Fascinating story of a young woman who gives up her illegitimate child and the woman who finds the baby and adopts her. From very different backgrounds in a small community the women are connected by a businessman, but also by the demands of prohibition and the limitations of their lives as women.
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The baby, Lucy Pear, has her own agenda, and is desperately saving to leave. Compelling and touching, with no easy answers.
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LibraryThing member thewanderingjew
Leaving Lucy Pear, Anna Solomon, author; Rebecca Lowman, narrator
This is a very interesting novel about the lives of several families beginning in 1917, when class and background were more important and one’s social standing and acceptance into society was considered quite an achievement. Three
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disparate families, from widely diverse backgrounds are followed closely as their paths intersect.
Beatrice Cohen, nee Haven, is the daughter of Lillian and Henry Haven, nee Hirsch, of Boston. Henry manufactures a boot that is all the rage. Lillian is very much the social climber. She was not born into her position and is well aware of her shortcomings and the drawbacks not only of her education, but also of her religion. This family is Jewish. Lillian works hard to learn proper decorum and speech to enable her to compete with, and engage with, the upper crust of society, as if she was also born with the same opportunity, wealth and schooling that was provided for them. When her daughter Bea was 18, in 1917, she encouraged her to socialize with a young man whose father was a man Henry wanted as a customer of Haven Boots, and soon afterward, Bea found that she was in a compromised position. To spare the family the consequences of the ensuing shame and humiliation of an unwed mother, she was sent away to stay with her Aunt and Uncle, Vera and Ira Hirsch, until the birth of the child.
Bea enjoyed her stay with her aunt and uncle. Vera was a freer spirit and was more accepting of her fall from grace than her parents. When Bea takes a dislike to the woman from the Jewish Orphanage because she seems cold-hearted and unaffectionate, she refuses to give her the baby. Vera is kind and offers to allow Bea to raise the child at her home, but she is ill, and it is not a practical solution. Instead, Bea devises another, very secret plan. Every year, on one particular night when her uncle’s Braffet pears were ripe for picking, “the pear people” would sneak onto the property and strip the trees of their fruit. Essentially, they were stealing the pears from the orchard planted by her Uncle Ira, years before. Bea decided that on that particular night, she would leave the baby under a tree in the pear orchard while she waited and watched to see who would come. She would know if they were suitable prospects to raise her daughter. If she didn’t like the people who approached the child, she would intercede. She had brought a whistle to scare them off or get their attention, in that event. However, t he woman who approached the child with her son, appeared to be soft spoken, unlike her husband, and she seemed loving to the baby and her own children. She allowed her to take the child away.
The story then moved to 1927. Bea is now married to the wealthy Albert Cohn, a banker, who was not a very happy man, but who was very considerate. Albert had his own difficulties in life to deal with and so their marriage serves the needs of both. They remained childless, by choice, protecting each other’s secrets. Bea became engaged in women’s causes and could be described as a feminist, actively pursuing their civil rights. She was very much a part of her society.
Josiah Story was married to the very wealthy Susannah Stanton. Her father, Caleb, owned the Stanton Granite Company. The Story’s were childless, but it was not for the lack of effort. Susannah had been unable to carry a child to term. Encouraged by Susannah, who was very aware of social standings, he decided to run for mayor. She was an enormous help to him, organizing his life and helping him navigate the social and political world. However, although he loved her, he was a man who was not satisfied with his life, and his roving eye brought him in contact with another woman. Josiah is not very likeable and seemed pompous and condescending when he interacted with others he considered beneath him in status.
Emma Murphy was poor. Hers was a working class family. However, she was not childless. She was the mother of 9 children. Roland Murphy, her husband was a fisherman who was absent for extended periods of time, often drinking up his profits before he got home. He had the capacity for cruelty. Emma needed money, and so she approached the very wealthy Josiah Story to seek his help with her effort to start a business producing Perry, a drink that was fermented from pears. In exchange for a piece of the business (which would use the pears the family stole every year from Ira Hirsch’s orchard), he provided her with the funding, the presses, the kegs and whatever else was needed. He also provided her with a job to earn extra income and hired her children to work at his father-in-law’s quarry. However, this business transaction came at a greater cost to her than she first thought. Josiah soon began to visit her at night.
Josiah arranged for Emma to work as a nurse for Ira Hirsch, Bea Cohn’s uncle. Josiah provided this service to Bea because he wanted to encourage her support for his political campaign, and it enabled him to be with Emma. Bea had been caring for her Uncle Ira, who was unwell. A nurse, he announced, would enable her to give more time to his campaign. Because of this confluence of events, Emma soon realized that she was meeting the true mother of her “daughter”, Lucy Pear, named so because of where she was found. Their resemblance to each other was startling. When I became truly engaged with Lucy, she had reached the age of 9 and was quite bright and precocious. Much of the book considers her 9th year in detail.
The pear orchard and the foundling are the catalysts for the narrative. Each needs the other to exist. The trials and tribulations of these families were explored in depth at first, but the conclusion was thin and left me wanting. The development of the lives of the characters felt hurried and incomplete. Each character was featured thinking of their future, in their present moment. It was not that clear that the author was taking the characters into their futures in reality, not just in their imagination. Also, some of the characteristics attributed to Lucy seemed more appropriate for an older child, however, this was a different time frame than the present one in which children are better protected until a certain age and are given far greater opportunity. At least, the reader learned of each character’s moment of epiphany as they journeyed forward.
The narrator read with feeling and placed each character in the story as an individual easily recognized by the tone and tenor of her voice. It was clear who was being featured, even as each of the characters engaged in some form of deception with each other, often condescending, taunting and belittling one another, driven to this behavior by their own frustration with their lives.
I wasn’t entirely comfortable with the stereotypical cast of the characters. The Hirsches and the Havens, “the Jews”, were depicted as largely driven by appearances and financial gain. They often changed their names to be more accepted and to find employment, which was true of the times. It was better not to be easily recognized as a Jew; the Murphy’s were Irish and were poor, drank to excess and had sometimes exhibited less than stellar morals; Jews, like the Irish were considered inferior by the elite of society, the White Anglo Saxon Protestants. The Story’s and Stanton’s were WASPs who were the more accepted upper class of society; the people of color, like the Irish, held menial jobs.
The novel engaged the reader with the social problems of the time frame it was set in; the issues of elitism, civil rights, race, religion, politics, class and status were introduced. These issues were woven into the novel as the characters engaged in the current events of their day and lifestyles, in the early part of the 20th century. It made it a bit more authentic. Many of the issues of the day, women’s suffrage, birth control, homosexuality, prohibition, child labor laws, the right to vote and the rights of women would surely be brought to mind and readers may feel we still fall short when it comes to dealing with and reforming these problems.
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LibraryThing member Carolee888
Sadly I am leaving the book, Leaving Lucy Pear by Anna Solomon. There was a great start, I wanted to read more and find out about the lives of the women in this story. I wondered why Beatrice did not want to raise her baby. Her mother had encouraged her to see the man who left her with a baby. But
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I felt so sorry for her life and understood why she left the baby under the pear tree. Then I was relieved when a very poor woman, already with many children carried her home and loved her so much. I admired the intelligence and determination of the baby as it grew into a small child and beyond. I though this has the makings of a wonderful story.

Then came an onslaught of new character after new character. I kept notes on how they connected to the women in the book. I kept wondering when will the story take me back to the main characters? Then the story traveled back to the woman and I lost my interest in reading it. I did not feel like forcing myself to finish it. I made it all the way to 77 and gave up. The book did not engage me enough to hang on.

Even though, I received this book as a win from FirstReads but that in no way influenced my thoughts or feelings of this book
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LibraryThing member Katyefk
Interesting story line with lots of twists and different characters. It was a good book to read over the summer!
LibraryThing member kimkimkim
The writing is achingly beautiful. It is not so much the story but about how well this story is told.
LibraryThing member JoanDudzinski
The story takes place in 1920's Prohibition-era Massachusetts. It follows the story of a wealthy Jewish mother, Bea, who leaves her newborn in a pear orchard for an Irish family to find and raise. As the child Lucy Pear grows up, it is apparent to all that she wasn't born into her new family. The
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plot traces the lives of both mother and daughter, and how they come to meet again.

Great Book Club title, so much to talk about.
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LibraryThing member nwieme
I liked it but I think it could have been so much more! It was a good story but I felt like someone dropped the ball??? Still, a good read.
LibraryThing member fionaanne
A wonderfully woven tale of 1927 society. Immensely readable.

Thank you to Penguin Random House forthe free advance reading copy.
LibraryThing member LibraryCin
In 1917, Bea leaves her newborn baby under a pear tree where she knows a family will find the baby. She assumes they will take her in and raise her, and they do. Ten years later, Lucy’s “adopted” mother Emma starts working for Bea, as a nurse to Bea’s uncle.

This was pretty slow. And vague
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at times as to what exactly was going on. I don’t think I particularly liked any of the characters – oh, I suppose I kind of liked Uncle Ira. I really didn’t care much about the characters, either, maybe because I didn’t like them very much? Initially, I thought I was enjoying the book, but I’m leaning more toward it being ok.
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Original publication date



1594632650 / 9781594632655
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