Adult Novels
Lawrence ca1935 Despite her success with juvenile series, Lawrence was primarily interested in writing adult fiction, later telling an interviewer, "Once one starts to write children's books, one is expected to continue writing children's books to the end of the chapter. I don't wish to write children's books all my life....I realize that my children's books have been kind to me but I want to gamble a bit." Although friends advised against changing fields, Lawrence nonetheless began work on an adult novel, spending seven months on the manuscript. She submitted it to Aventine Press under the pseudonym Lynette Elaine West, since she felt her own name was already associated with juvenile fiction. Only after it was accepted did she reveal her true identity.[1a]

Make Way stills The novel, Head of the Family, was published in 1932 and met with limited success, at best. Her next novel, however, brought Lawrence's name to prominence. Years Are So Long (1934) not only received favorable reviews and attained best-seller status, but was also named a Book-of-the-Month Club selection and later made into a highly-acclaimed movie, "Make Way for Tomorrow" (1937), chosen one of the year's ten best by the New York Times .

If I Have Lawrence's third novel, If I Have Four Apples (1935), was also a BOMC selection, making her only the fifth author that had been so honored (the other four included Pearl Buck, John Galsworthy, and Thornton Wilder) [1] and the first American author to have two successive works chosen as BOMC selections. [2] Like Years (which had dealt with elderly parents no longer able to support themselves and adult children reluctant or unable to help them satisfactorily), Apples addressed another contemporary problem connected with family life, that of individuals living beyond their means, determined to pretend their limited income will somehow stretch to cover whatever purchases they deem important. (Or, as one character puts it, "Can you teach that two and two make four to people who are firmly resolved to believe it makes eight?")

By 1937, Lawrence had built a solid audience and reputation for her fiction. American Mercury highlighted her fourth adult work, Sound of Running Feet (1937), in its December 1936 "Book Preview," a feature devoted to "an advance excerpt from an important forthcoming book," and The Saturday Review of Literature published a favorable review. In 1938, her fifth novel, Bow Down to Wood and Stone, was praised by Sinclair Lewis, who devoted a column in Newsweek to Lawrence's work, calling her "an exceedingly important and interesting young novelist." [3] Lewis wrote:

"This world of [Lawrence's] is America, superlatively; industrial, urban, yet not sterile from having forgotten its rustic origins. And of this life, these touching, gently tragic people, Miss Lawrence has written four first-rate novels...
"As important as her striking into human motives in middle-class America is Miss Lawrence's truly unusual power of seeing and remembering the details of dailiy living, each petty, yet all of them together making up the picture of an immortal human being..."

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