Margot Livesey

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  • February 2024
  • Knopf
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The Road from Belhaven

From the New York Times best-selling author of The Flight of Gemma Hardy, a novel about a young woman whose gift of second sight complicates her coming of age in late-nineteenth-century Scotland.

Growing up in the care of her grandparents on Belhaven Farm, Lizzie Craig discovers as a small child that she can see into the future. But her gift is selective—she doesn't, for instance, see that she has an older sister who will come to join the family. As her "pictures" foretell various incidents and accidents, she begins to realize a painful truth: she may glimpse the future, but she can seldom change it.

Nor can Lizzie change the feelings that come when a young man named Louis, visiting Belhaven for the harvest, begins to court her. Why have the adults around her not revealed that the touch of a hand can change everything? After following Louis to Glasgow, though, she learns the limits of his devotion. Faced with a seemingly impossible choice, she makes a terrible mistake. But her second sight may allow her a second chance.

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Praise for The Road from Belhaven

"Powerful.... Livesey's lyrical perfection comes at no expense to the plot, which barrels like a runaway train. This is a gem." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)

"The historical setting and paranormal touch comprise a departure for Livesey, and a satisfying one. Livesey's vibrant imagery and profound compassion deliver a tragic coming-of-age novel that resonates with her gifted protagonist's resourcefulness in the face of stunning faithlessness." Booklist (Starred Review)

"The Road From Belhaven is a coming-of-age story about abandonment, betrayal and inheritance. The prose is radiant and descriptive, rich with Scottish imagery... Lizzie is a sympathetic character, strong, capable and restless... When [she] is driven to make a series of rash decisions with dire consequences, the question that haunts Livesey's novel is thrown into sharp relief: Are we in control of our own destinies? While the answer for Lizzie and perhaps most young women of her age and time is a dark one, Livesey's piercing and eloquent novel manages to convey the wonderful mysteries that life offers along the way." The Washington Post

"The book is beautifully served by narrator Ell Potter, a true genius of accents. Here she affects a Scottish burr that further deepens our sense of a world that Livesey has described so vividly. Emotionally, too, Potter is warmly engaged with the characters, her voice urgent and passion-swept as Lizzie’s trials accumulate." The Washington Post (RE: Audio edition)

"Margot Livesey is no slouch when it comes to casting a mesmerizing spell with her language; one of her other indelible and pleasure-inducing trademarks is lacing her fiction with shimmers of otherworldliness. In her latest novel, The Road from Belhaven, protagonist Lizzie Craig is gifted (or, as some might say, cursed) with the ability to catch irregular glimpses of the future. Lizzie is a marvel of a character... Livesey's latest work is both more magical and more Earth-bound than what's contained in the body of the novel...In a tale rife with love and loss, Livesey makes clear, you can't have one without the other. But maybe—just maybe—love wins. " The Boston Globe

"Inspired by the author's mother, the novel gracefully evokes the magic and mystery of the rural world and the vitality and harshness of city life." The New Yorker ("What We're Reading This Week")

"Whether it's extra-sensory perception or the gift of premonitions, Livesey knows the world is not always explicable to the beautiful, complicated humans who live in it... Livesey has keen insight into the way people behave and she crafts lyrical, lucid sentences, but what's best about her work is her understanding that magic and mystery are part of everyday life. We're so fully immersed in Lizzie's world that we understand every move she makes, no matter how disastrous it is. 'No, don't do that,' you may find yourself saying two or nine times. But instead of leading you to toss the book in frustration, Livesey makes you want to give error-prone Lizzie a hug of comfort and recognition." The Minneapolis Star-Tribune

"A master class in storytelling. Remarkable is the way Ms. Livesey uses historical fiction to reveal contemporary values, regularly delivering shrewd commentary on motherhood, work in a shifting economy, and the burdens and benefits of family... If there's any complaint to be made about 'The Road from Belhaven,' it's that we don't get to linger there longer, milking cows, collecting eggs, lying in the sweet grass with the horses grazing nearby. Still, it won't require a talent like 'second sight' to enjoy this new novel from one of our most beloved writers." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

"Livesey has crafted in this quietly splendid novel a portrait of a young woman whose life is buffeted both by exeternal factors and her own internal circumstances. Readers won't learn what awaits her until the very last page." Washington Independent Review of Books

"Livesey grounds her young protagonist’s extraordinary clairvoyance in the utterly believable everyday, as beautifully rendered characters and landscapes come alive and make this a book to quickly get lost in." Nicole Chung for Wondercade

"Margot Livesey draws a poignant, beautiful portrait of the romantic twists and turns that define the life of a perceptively sensitive Scottish woman in the 19th century... Compassionately drawn and emotionally charged, [The Road from Belhaven] maps the tenderest places of the human heart and soul and once again displays her indelible grasp on the human condition." Kathleen Gerard for ShelfAwareness

"[A] lyrical and tender coming-of-age tale, set in Victorian Scotland that comes to life through Margot Livesey's prose." Town & Country ("30 Best Books of Winter 2024")

"The lesson of Lizzie's story is memorable and affecting. Margot Livesey shows us how we can all be blind to our own fate. Even second sight makes no difference." Times Literary Supplement

"[T]his engaging, moving book is an especially good instance of both the historical novel and the coming-of-age tale...Livesey clearly loves Lizzie Craig for all her very human shortcomings; I came to care about her deeply as well, and to cherish this book." Scott Pfeiffer for New City

"Charming and thought provoking...If Livesey so desired, she could have strung me along for another 200 pages, allowing me to stay entwined with the lives of Lizzie and her family a little longer." The Daily Iowan

"This novel casts a spell. The writing here reminds me of Claire Keegan's Foster and Alice Munro at her unsentimental best. Rich with tangible detail, The Road from Belhaven is magical as well, not least in the way it stops time for the reader. I inhaled it in one day." Allegra Goodman, New York Times best-selling author of Sam

"Margot Livesey is a treasure: a writer who understands the magic and mysteries of the human soul, and brings that wisdom to novels that are both riveting and lush. The Road from Belhaven is a smart, profound, and beautiful book that draws you in and holds you tight." Chris Bohjalian, New York Times best-selling author of The Flight Attendant and Hour of the Witch

"The Road from Belhaven is a marvel. In this radiantly beautiful novel, Margot Livesey introduces us to Lizzie Craig, an unforgettable 19th-century Scottish clairvoyant haunted by her future as much as her past. Livesey has crafted a story as thrilling as it is thoughtful, one animated by life's fundamental question: how do we change?" Anthony Marra, New York Times best-selling author of Mercury Pictures Presents

"Margot Livesey is a great, gifted storyteller, with a moral compass of pure gold and the necessary clear eyes to understand and love us all, with our mistakes and misunderstandings and damages. She holds the world of Belhaven Farm up to her bright, sharp vision and the light and the shadows dance for generations." Amy Bloom, New York Times best-selling author of In Love

"Margot Livesey's prose is so lucid, so precise, and so understated as she goes about conjuring and sustaining the lives of her characters, that the reader hardly notices how deep a claim Lizzie Craig has laid on the heart until it is in danger of breaking on her behalf. The only thing I could think to do when I finished the book was to begin again, I didn't want it to end." Paul Harding, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Tinkers