The Lowells of Massachusetts: An American Family Coming in April, 2017 from St. Martin’s Press
The Lowells of Massachusetts were a remarkable family. They were settlers in the New World in the 1600s, revolutionaries creating a new nation in the 1700s, merchants and manufacturers building prosperity in the 1800s, and scientists and artists flourishing in the 1900s. In The Lowells of Massachusetts, I tell the story of this fascinating and powerful dynasty.
Though not without scoundrels and certainly no strangers to controversy , the family boasted some of the most astonishing individuals in America’s history:
Percival Lowle, the patriarch who arrived in America in the seventeenth to plant the roots of the family tree;
Reverend John Lowell, the big-hearted preacher;
Judge John Lowell, lawyer extraordinaire and a member of the Continental Congress;
Francis Cabot Lowell, manufacturer and founder of the Industrial Revolution in the US;
James Russell Lowell, American Romantic poet and abolitionist;
Lawrence Lowell, one of Harvard’s longest-serving and most controversial presidents; and
Amy Lowell, the twentieth century Pulitzer Prize-winning poet who lived openly in a Boston Marriage with the actress Ada Dwyer Russell.
The Lowells realized the promise of America as the land of opportunity by uniting Puritan values of hard work, community service, and individual responsibility with a deep-seated optimism. Long before the Kennedys put their stamp on Massachusetts, the Lowells claimed the bedrock.
Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Celebrating the Joys of Letter Writing published by Simon & Schuster, April 2014
In the last years of the twentieth century I discovered a trove of hundred-year old letters in a trunk in my backyard. I fell in love with one of the correspondents found in the trunk, a Princeton freshman from the early 1900s. When my oldest son heads off to college, I hope that he will write to me, as the Princeton student wrote to his mother. But times have changed. Before I can persuade my son of the value of letters, I must first understand exactly what it is about letters that make them so significant and just why I want to receive letters from my child. I set off on a quest through the history of letter writing—from the ancient Egyptians to the medieval lovers Abelard and Heloise, from the letters received by President Lincoln after his son’s death to the correspondence of Edith Wharton and Henry James. In my book Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I define the specific qualities that make letters so special, examining not only historical letters but also the letters in epistolary novels, my husband’s love letters, and dozens more sources, including my son’s brief reports from college on the weather and his allowance. What I find is that letters offer proof and legacy of what is most important in life: love and connection. In the end, the letters we write just might be even more important than the ones we wait for.
Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading published by HarperCollins, June 2011
I have always been a reader. As a child, a trip to the local bookmobile with my sisters was more exhilarating than a ride at the carnival. Books were the glue that held my immigrant family together. When my oldest sister died at the age of 46, I turned to books for comfort, escape, and introspection. Seated in my beloved purple chair, I rediscovered the magic of such writers as Toni Morrison, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ian McEwan, Edith Wharton, and, of course, Leo Tolstoy. Through the connections I made with books and authors (and even other readers), my life changed profoundly, and in unexpected ways. Reading, it turns out, can be the ultimate therapy. Tolstoy and the Purple Chair tells the story of my year of reading a book a day, and the story of my family, who shaped me as the reader that I am and offered me the comfort and escape and wisdom of books, just when I needed all those gifts the most.