Lorene Cary discusses her portrayal of family in new book, “If Sons, Then Heirs”

It usually takes author Lorene Cary between three and five years to finish writing a novel. Her newest book, though, “If Sons, Then Heirs,” took a bit longer – between five and six years.

To be sure, there were edits – an entire section of the book was taken out only to be reintroduced, for example – but Cary said it also took time for her to soundly craft the authentic sense of family and family history she wanted to portray.

The 320-page book, her fifth, centers on the unforeseen complications that arise when Alonzo Rayne, a construction company owner in Philadelphia, returns home to South Carolina to urge his great-grandmother to sell her land so the family can pay for long-term care.

“It’s complicated. It’s confusing,” said Cary to the full-capacity crowd that gathered inside the William Penn Charter School’s Gummere Library in East Falls on Wednesday night.

“Here I’m trying to do family – broken, lost, the way you remember, and the way you misremember, the way new stuff happens. All of that,” Cary said.

As part of the private school’s Distinguished Speaker & Artists Series, Cary, a University of Pennsylvania professor and new member of the School Reform Commission, read selections from her new novel and talked about her approach as an author.

“Each book feels a bit different. It is a new thing. Each one is a different process for me,” said Cary, as she stood at the center of an intimate semi-circle.

That said, the East Falls resident added that in all of her books, she looks to keep her writing easy to work through.

“I like prose to be as close to transparent as possible – like Pop Rocks. You stop thinking about the prose, but the story stays,” said Cary.

Afterward, as Cary signed copies of her book, Debbie Marcee, a long-time fan and Penn Charter employee, said that ideal makes the stories more enjoyable. She especially enjoyed hearing Cary read the words she wrote.

“She’s a character. The first time I saw her I was surprised that she was such a character. She is funny. She’s a real person and she’s not this old English teacher that I had in high school,” said Marcee.

David Robertson, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, will speak during the series’ next installment on Feb. 1. The event will be held at the Union League in Center City.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.