A desperate young girl under the cover of night, leaves her newborn baby under a tree in an attempt to relinquish the care of her baby to someone else. As she turns away, she feels a last sense of regret and hurriedly turns back to retrieve the child, but when she gets to the tree, the baby is gone; taken by pear thieves to raise as their own. Nobody hears the young girl’s cries as she suddenly realizes that she has lost her baby forever. This is the opening of Pushcart Prize winner Anna Solomon’s new novel Leaving Lucy Pear.
As the novel evolves, we are introduced to other characters and multiple points of view, which sometimes slows down the flow of the story, but not enough to render it dull. There’s Emma and Roland Murphy, the abandoned baby’s adoptive parents, and Emma’s on again-off again rum smuggling lover who is also a hopeful candidate for mayor.
Beatrice or Bea as she’s better known to her family, is the young mother who left her baby under the tree turned woman. She lives with the shadow of the infant she abandoned while dealing with a marriage that is not entirely whole. Bea’s mother Lilian, an overbearing presence who was more responsible for Bea’s decision all those years ago than both of them realize. And then there’s Lucy Pear, the abandoned baby girl now ten years old, wanting nothing more than to prove her worth to the only family she has ever known.
Amidst prohibition-Era and the hopelessness felt after World War I, Leaving Lucy Pear is an ode to family and social struggles as reflected in Emma, a strong-willed Irish woman who wants nothing more than the best for her children, even though her actions are frequently questionable. Bea is the other side of the coin, a privileged Jewish girl whose life turned out to be so much different than the one she wanted, and who has never stopped feeling the heartache and guilt of abandoning her own child.
With Leaving Lucy Pear, Solomon paints a stunning portrait of different people in the social and even religious stratum, thrown together under unforeseen circumstances. The narrative is amazingly detailed, offering a wide view into the minds, hopes and dreams of each of these characters, while simultaneously asking of us not to judge them too harshly for their mistakes.
As fate continues to throw them together, each of the characters will begin to ask themselves are we really that different? What truly defines us as human beings, as people? And can love, justice and family prevail in a world where appearances are everything and feelings are squashed under a veneer of harshness and superiority?
Author’s note: This review is based on an advanced reader’s copy (ARC) provided by Netgalley and the publisher.