Leaving Rock Harbor

A Novel

Leaving Rock Harbor

An unforgettable coming-of-age story and a luminous portrayal of a dramatic era of American history, Rebecca Chace’s Leaving Rock Harbor takes readers into the heart of a New England mill town in the early twentieth century.

On the eve of World War I, fourteen-year-old Frankie Ross and her parents leave their simple life in Poughkeepsie to seek a new beginning in the booming city of Rock Harbor, Massachusetts. Frankie’s father finds work in a bustling cotton mill, but erupting labor strikes threaten to dismantle the town’s socioeconomic structure. Frankie soon befriends two charismatic young men—Winslow Curtis, privileged son of the town’s most powerful politician, and Joe Barros, a Portuguese mill worker who becomes a union organizer—forming a tender yet bittersweet love triangle that will have an impact on all three throughout their lives.

Inspired in part by Chace’s family history, Frankie’s journey to adulthood takes us through the First World War and into the Jazz Age, followed by the Great Depression—from rags to riches and back again. Her life parallels the evolution of the mill town itself, and the lost promise of a boomtown that everyone thought would last forever.

Of her acclaimed novel Capture the Flag, the Los Angeles Times said, "Chace’s writing resembles a generation of New York writers heavily influenced by John Updike: Rick Moody, A. M. Homes, Susan Minot, and, more recently, Melissa Bank." With its lyrical prose and compelling style, Leaving Rock Harbor further establishes Chace’s position in that literary tradition.
  • Scribner | 
  • 304 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781439150085 | 
  • June 2010
List Price $11.99 (price may vary by retailer)


Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Leaving Rock Harbor includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Rebecca Chace. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book. 



Having moved to the bustling mill town of Rock Harbor with her parents, fifteen-year-old Frankie is on the brink of adulthood. In a time when racial and class differences define social relationships, Frankie forms unlikely friendships with two young men—Winslow Curtis, the son of a wealthy Massachusetts politician, and Joe Barros, a Portuguese mill worker. These are two people who will touch Frankie’s life in more ways than she could ever imagine, or completely understand.

Frankie has seen her share of trouble—her father’s failed suicide attempt is what prompted the family to move to Rock Harbor in the first place. She watches as he struggles to reclaim his stake in life, and she sees her mother tire under the burden of her father’s demons.

As the town’s economy gets a boost from World War I and its demand for cotton, some of its residents are sent to fight. A series of choices eventually leads Frankie to marry Winslow, though Joe—despite bein see more

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About the Author

Rebecca Chace
Photograph by Nina Subin

Rebecca Chace

Rebecca Chace is the author of Chautauqua Summer, a New York Times Notable Book, and the novel Capture the Flag, which was recently adapted into a short film. Chace cowrote the screenplay (with director Lisanne Skyler) and acts in the film. Chace is also the author of several plays, has contributed to The New York Times Magazine and The New York Times Book Review, among other publications, and teaches at Bard College and the MFA Creative Writing Program at City College. She lives in New York City.