Thursday, February 27, 2014

Review: A Fall of Marigolds

A Fall of Marigolds
By Susan Meissner
Berkley/New American Library, February 2014

A beautiful scarf, passed down through the generations, connects two women who learn that the weight of the world is made bearable by the love we give away . . .

September 1911. On Ellis Island in New York Harbor, nurse Clara Wood cannot face returning to Manhattan, where the man she loved fell to his death in the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire. Then, while caring for a fevered immigrant whose own loss mirrors hers, she becomes intrigued by a name embroidered onto the scarf he carries . . . and finds herself caught in a dilemma that compels her to confront the truth about the assumptions she’s made. Will what she learns devastate her or free her?

September 2011. On Manhattan’s Upper West Side, widow Taryn Michaels has convinced herself that she is living fully, working in a charming specialty fabric store, and raising her daughter alone. Then a long-lost photograph appears in a national magazine, and she is forced to relive the terrible day her husband died in the collapse of the World Trade Towers—the same day a stranger reached out and saved her. Will a chance reconnection and a century-old scarf open Taryn’s eyes to the larger forces at work in her life?

My Review

Susan Meissner is a master storyteller. Once again I was drawn quickly into her story. Clara Wood knows she’s escaped from the traumatic event of witnessing someone she cared about jumping to his death during the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire by taking a job on Ellis Island. She prefers to stay in what she calls her in between place, but when an immigrant arrives wearing his recently deceased wife’s scarf, she is drawn to their common experience of grief.

Fortunately for Clara, there are others around her who see that she needs to heal rather than escape from her trauma. The scene where the doctor helps her board the ferry to go to Manhattan is so descriptive I felt Clara’s anxiety while I rooted her on. The parallel modern story, which gets much less coverage in the novel but is equally powerful, involves Taryn, who happens to have that same scarf with her when the World Trade Towers collapse, killing her husband before she has a chance to tell him something important. Ten years later a photo of her is published, bringing back painful memories but also propelling Taryn into finally sharing the story with her daughter. I loved how Meissner tied this up in such a satisfying loving way.

I truly loved this book and highly recommend it to readers of both historical and contemporary novels who like stories about overcoming pain to love again.

I received a complimentary copy from Berkley/New American Library, a division of Penguin Group for an honest, unbiased review.

Review by Cindy Thomson

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