By Miriam Weinstein
When Anna Solomon began to weave together ideas and images for her second novel, Leaving Lucy Pear (published in July 2016 by Viking), her upbringing in Gloucester played a very large part.
“I loved growing up in Gloucester,” she says. And, although as an adult she has lived in Providence and now lives in New York City, “it is still my home, and it is still embedded in me. I feel I could write about it until I die.”
Indeed, the natural and the man-made landscape of the place, as well as its history, figure prominently in this story about motherhood, choices, consequences, and discovering one’s true nature. It begins in the 1920s when a well-to-do young Jewish woman leaves her newborn baby to be found under a pear tree on Eastern Point. It follows the baby, the woman who left her, and the woman who found her. So yes, this is very much a work of imagination. But locals will recognize the intimate descriptions of this very particular milieu.
Because of her Cape Ann connections, Solomon was able to tap into local historical expertise. Sarah Dunlap, co-author of The Jewish Community of Cape Ann, pointed her to historical archives. Barbara Erkkila, historian of the granite industry, described how it felt to be a child on Cape Ann in the early years of the 20th century. Erik Ronnberg’s knowledge of the history of the fishing industry helped her to work through a plot problem.
Solomon’s Jewish upbringing on Cape Ann also played a large role. “The Jewish community is a very, very tight and supportive local community,” she says. “The synagogue (Temple Ahavat Achim) for me felt like a second home. Because it was small, and people came from all over, there were many different kinds of Jews there. It showed me, at least as a child, a lot of ways to be Jewish.”
In addition to Leaving Lucy Pear, Solomon is the author of a previous novel, The Little Bride, and co-editor with Eleanor Henderson of Labor Day: True Birth Stories by Today’s Best Women Writers.
Solomon will speak about Leaving Lucy Pear at the Gloucester Lyceum and Sawyer Free Library on Thursday, October 13 at 7 p.m., and at the Boston Book Festival, on Saturday, October 15, at 10:45 a.m., at the Boston Public Library.
(This review also appeared in the Jewish Journal).
Miriam Weinstein is a writer who lives in Gloucester. Her latest book, just released, is All Set For Black, Thanks: A New Look At Mourning. She is also the author of The Surprising Power of Family Meals, and Yiddish: A Nation of Words.