Monday, September 10, 2018

A Fall of Marigolds by Susan Meissner Book Review

Reviewing A Fall of Marigolds. 
A Fall of Marigolds by Susan Meissner is both heart-breaking and triumphant. It is a story of two women who lost the men they loved during two separated tragedies. A co-worker recommended this book to me. The first chapter was easy to read. I was immediately hooked. Then I got bogged down in the second chapter. My co-worker encouraged me to continue reading. I'm so glad I did! 


A Fall of Marigolds


Chapter 1 begins with Taryn and the setting is Manhattan in September 2011. Her story begins at her job - a job she loves in a boutique fabrics shop. Her specialty is identifying and matching old fabrics. Taryn's word-of-mouth advertising is that she can always find a match to old and rare textiles. Her response is, "Almost always."  There is one piece of material that stumped her. Lily's "French-made from an Indian design, and surely a hundred years old" marigold patterned scarf was a mystery. 

Taryn was a young widow, her husband killed during the 9/11 attacks. And she was raising her daughter alone. Taryn had no way of knowing how that customers scarf would tie together the past and the future.

Chapter 2 opens with Nurse Clara at Ellis Island, August 1911. The shift from a setting in this century to a setting 100 years ago was jarring for me. I got stuck in Chapter 2 and had to re-start it a couple of times (from a combination of the book and from my typical response of falling asleep as soon as I begin reading).  Clara's voice was subdued and her story seemed as though it was going to be boring compared to Taryn's.  I am so glad I continued reading because Clara's story was not boring. 

We spend days with Clara and the other nurses and doctors on Ellis Island as they care for the immigrants who are ill, contagious, and often dying. It became very hard for me to put the book down as the relationships on the island, and the characters become fully formed. Clara has reason to sound subdued. She lost her love in the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire. 

The Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire occurred and the issues with the elevator and stairs trapped the workers on the floors above the fire. 145 people died, either in the building or while jumping to their deaths from the windows. 

Part way through Clara's story, I began to think that the author would tie the two story lines together in some fantastical or annoying way. I was happily wrong. The lives of the characters were woven together in a beautiful way.


Author Susan Meissner


In the Author's Note, Ms. Meissner writes 
"I strive to be as accurate as possible when I create an imagined story in a historic place .... I have in these pages proposed how one nurse might have experienced Ellis Island Hospital in the second half of 1911."

I enjoyed reading about Nurse Wood and the writing was so engaging that I could completely imagine the setting. A setting that I had never before given much thought. I felt as thought I was on the streets during 9/11. And as though I were watching Nurse Clara care for those who were recovering or dying on Ellis Island. 

The book dealt beautifully with tragic events, grief, and mourning. The age-old battles of how to make sense of tragedy, how much to let yourself love, and how quickly to trust. And finally, how does each person try to make sense of life, the "hard and beautiful aspects of a full life."





Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article.

9 comments:

  1. I am always looking for great books and I certainly appreciate the recommendation. I am rather fond of historical romance novels and while this one sounds like it might be sad at points, it does sound like a great book.

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    1. I bawled my eyes out... but overall, it was a "feel good" book. I think you will really like it.

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  2. The background to both the 9/11 tragedy and the Ellis Island Immigration site and the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire sounds very interesting. I like stories such as those that are told/retold through the eyes of the people they could have affected. I shall look for this book to read soon.

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    1. Ms. Elf, you'll have to let me know if you like this book as much as I did. I learned quite a bit about Ellis Island during that period of time. It was a very interesting history lesson.

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  3. Another book to add to my growing list. I read a few and add a few but somehow the adding is easier and quicker than the subtracting part. Plus I keep finding books that really get to me too and add them as well. Oh I have a reading list that will take me well into December to get through. But, I thank you for putting this one out here. Sounds like a book I will thoroughly enjoy!

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    1. Oh my gosh Grammie... I have the exact same problem. I've got all kinds of books in my "to read" list, then someone recommends another good book. There are not enough leisurely hours in a day! I did bump this book to the front of the "to read" list and I was so glad I did.

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  4. You have completely drawn me into this book. I'm so intrigued on how these two times were tied together. Curiosity is getting the best of me, I have to add this to my list. Sounds so good.

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  5. This sounds like a book I would like, I love historical novels that take place in the past and the present. I just read The Address and it did not...very interesting. Thanks for the recommend.

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  6. This will also go on my reading list, though I'm currently all booked up. I like historical fiction about events I've read about in nonfiction and in the news. Like Barbara, I'm eager to discover the connection between the events.

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