7.11.08

ABOUT MY BOOKS


This Angel on My Chest (University of Pittsburgh Press)
Publication date: October 5, 2015
Winner of the 2015 Drue Heinz Literature Prize



From contest judge Jill McCorkle, author of Life After Life:
“A powerful and moving collection. These stories are held together by the experience of grief; a husband dying too soon and a wife left to go on. There is an abundance of wit, and wise observations about life. I always felt firmly rooted in the emotion, startled again and again by the weight of the simplest everyday objects and situations, against a backdrop of loss.”
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Review (starred) of THIS ANGEL ON MY CHEST in Kirkus:

“The author's wit, clarity, and literary inventiveness dance circles around the omnipresent sadness, making this book a prime example of the furious creative energy that can explode from the collision of grief with talent and craftsmanship.”


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Excerpts can be found in the "read my work" section.


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Writer Robin Black wrote in the Washington Independent Review of Books, in the "Bedtime Stories" column:


"Coming out in fall 2015, This Angel on My Chest is the Drue Heinz Prize-winning collection of short stories by Leslie Pietrzyk, and it is stunning. Everyone should be marking their calendars and setting aside time for this entirely original, brilliant, and, yes, heartbreaking look at what it means to lose a spouse at a very young age. There is a prismatic quality to the book, new angles explored, new light cast from different vantage points. It’s not to be missed."





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Pears on a Willow Tree (Avon Books)
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Pears on a Willow Tree is a multigenerational roadmap of love and hate, distance and closeness, and the lure of roots that both bind and sustain us all.

The Marchewka women are inseparable. They relish the joys of family gatherings; from preparing traditional holiday meals to organizing a wedding in which each of them is given a specific task -- whether it's sewing the bridal gown or preserving pickles as a gift to the newlyweds. Bound together by recipes, reminiscences and tangled relationships, these women are the foundation of a dignified, compassionate family--one that has learned to survive the hardships of emigration and assimilation in twentieth-century America.

But as the century evolves, so does each succeeding generation. As the older women keep a tight hold on the family traditions passed from mother to daughter, the younger women are dealing with more modern problems, wounds not easily healed by the advice of a local priest or a kind word from mother.

Amy is separated by four generations from her great-grandmother Rose, who emigrated from Poland. Rose's daughter Helen adjusted to the family's new home in a way her mother never could, while at the same time accepting the importance of Old Country ways. But Helen's daughter Ginger finds herself suffocating within the close-knit family, the first Marchewka woman to leave Detroit for the adventure of life beyond the reach of her mother and grandmother.

It's in the American West that Ginger raises her daughter Amy, uprooted from the safety of kitchens perfumed by the aroma of freshly baked poppy seed cake and pierogi made by hand by generations of women. But Amy is about to realize that there may be room in her heart for both the Old World and the New.

Read more here: http://www.lesliepietrzyk.com/POAWTRevised.htm


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A Year and a Day (William Morrow)
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Fifteen-year-old Alice dreams of her first kiss, has sleepovers, makes prank calls, auditions for "Our Town," and tries to pass high school biology. It's 1975, and at first look, her life would seem to be normal and unexceptional. But in the world that Leslie Pietrzyk paints, every moment she chronicles is revealed through the kaleidoscope of loss, stained by the fact that Alice's mother, without warning, without apology, explanation, or note, deliberately parks her car onto the railroad tracks, into the path of an oncoming train.

In the emotional year that follows, Alice and her older brother find themselves in the care of their great aunt, forced to cope and move forward after their catastrophic loss. Lonely and confused, Alice absorbs herself in her mother Annette's familiar rituals, trying to recapture their connection -- only to be stunned by the sound of her mother's voice speaking to her clear as day as she flips Sunday morning pancakes. Driven to understand who her mother was, Alice distances herself from her girlfriends and brother as she engages in "conversations" with Annette. As she works through her grief, Alice slowly begins to see Annette as an individual, separate from simply "my mother" -- and ultimately embraces the bittersweet knowledge that the lives to which we are most intimately connected often remain the most mysterious of all.

Taking its title from the pop-psychology idea that it should only take a year to get over the death of a loved one, A Year and a Day is an intense and deeply affecting portrait of how the human heart counters tragedy and can spin hard won triumph out of the deepest despair. A redemptive, often humorous meditation on growing up and growing into oneself, this is an intimate and heart warming novel to curl up with and to savor.