Few narratives convey as warm and intimate a sense of the town as the beguiling novel Leaving Pico, by Frank X. Gaspar. The story — about a transformative summer in the life of a Luso-American family and about our common hunger for enough nobility to hold our heads high — centers on the West End home of its young narrator, Josie Carvalho. It’s tempting to look at No. 119, where Gaspar grew up in the 1950s, and wonder how much this place informs the novel. Gaspar’s great aunt, Theophila “Mattie” (Gaspar) Brown, conducted a millinery business here, as had Josie’s great aunt, also Theophila. And one sees a bit of the real John Joseph Gaspie of Pico in Gaspar’s rendering of Josie’s grandfather, also John Joseph. But too literal a reading honors neither the real nor the fictional characters, nor Gaspar’s great imagination.
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