Gayle Brandeis
AUTHOR   TEACHER   ACTIVIST

Ballantine

Paperback 2010
ISBN 0345492625

"Readers will fall in love with the women of Delta Girls and cheer at the choices they make to keep their children safe... I loved this book and wanted it to never end. "
-JO-ANN MAPSON,
author of The Bad Girl Creek series and
The Owl & Moon Cafe
SYNOPSIS
The lives of two disparate women—a single mother working hard to make ends meet and a young figure skater at the top of her game—entwine in an unforgettable novel of warmth, depth, and wisdom.

Izzy and her daughter Quinn have been on the move for all of Quinn’s nine years. Izzy works the fields as a fruit picker, following the produce north and south through the growing season. When they reach a struggling pear orchard in the Sacramento River Delta, Izzy intends it to be just another way station in their nomadic lives. But the orchard and its kindly owners capture Quinn’s heart, and Izzy briefly forgets that she’s running from a past that still haunts her—until a strange incident brings national media attention to the Delta.

Seemingly a world away, Karen is a rising young star in figure skating with an edgy, daring new partner. Nathan is everything her old teammate wasn’t: sexy, dangerous, and extremely headstrong. As Karen nears her eighteenth birthday, the partners find themselves on the world stage—and the simmering intensity between them finally erupts.

As each woman struggles with a sudden thrust into the spotlight, their narratives become more intertwined—until Izzy’s past and Karen’s future finally collide.
BLURBS
"Best New Paperback"
-ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY
"Readers will fall in love with the women of Delta Girls and cheer at the choices they make to keep their children safe. Brandeis transports the reader into California's verdant Delta country, where whales make wrong turns, where orchards bloom and must be picked in a matter of days, and reveals the lives of laborers and the industry behind them. I loved this book and wanted it to never end."
-JO-ANN MAPSON,
author of The Bad Girl Creek series and
The Owl & Moon Cafe
Best Books of 2010: Fiction
"There's something spirited and satisfying in Gayle Brandeis' prose. She pushes at language with a poet's heart and skill, leaving us breathless and always wishing for more... [Delta Girls is] a rich and gorgeous ride with two very different women: a single mom making a living as a migrant fruit picker and a figure skater, intent on the heights. A series of unlikely events cause their two worlds to collide, with unexpected results. This is not a plot that does well with over-explanation. Brandeis' books are all about the journey. And this? It's a glorious one: well worth the effort."
-JANUARY MAGAZINE
"Delta Girls is a novel ignited by secrets -- secrets that propel the novel to its wild climax. Brandeis proves an excellent guide into largely unfamiliar worlds. Most satisfying of all are her descriptions of the inner landscape of fierce maternal love."
-BRIDGET ASHER,
author of The Pretend Wife and
My Husband’s Sweethearts
EVOLUTION
A good friend grew up on a pear farm in the Sacramento Delta; I hadn’t even known that there was a Delta in California until he started to share his stories with me. I found the world he described so evocative, so rich with history and sensory detail (I’m a sucker for fruit—my book Fruitflesh uses fruit as its central metaphor—so all the pear information was especially intoxicating to me). When I began to read stories about the two humpback whales who took a wrong turn and swam up the Sacramento River, a story started to form in my head of a mother and daughter who also unintentionally find themselves in the Sacramento Delta around the same time as the whales, all of them searching for the place where they truly belong.

The figure skating aspect of the book came along because I had been dreaming about skating every night. At first, I thought this meant that I needed to return to skating; I started taking lessons after two and a half decades off the ice, which was wonderful, but the spins made me dizzy, and eventually I realized that I wanted to write about skating more than I actually wanted to skate. When I first began to explore her character, Karen skated as a solo competitor, but at some point I realized that since I was writing about pears, maybe I should also write about pairs skating, and play with the pears/pairs echo. The whole Karen/Nathan story emerged from there, and their connection to Izzy’s story became clear (until then, I wasn’t sure how the two threads of the story intersected).

I started this book around the time that I decided to leave my first marriage; I mentioned to a friend that I was surprised I wasn’t writing more about my life, and she helped me realize that I in fact was working through the experience by writing this novel. The first line “Pears ripen best off the tree” unconsciously spoke to my own need to leave the life I knew in order to fully become myself. This book marks a time of true transition for me—I had a completely different husband, editor and agent by the time I finished writing it (but I learned much from those who I started the journey with, and am grateful for everyone on both sides of the equation.)