A Fall of Marigolds

A Fall of MarigoldsA Fall of Marigolds by Susan Meissner
Published by NAL on February 4th 2014
Pages: 394
ISBN: 045141991X
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“The marigold insisted I not give up. They are very resilient flowers, you know…. They aren’t fragrant like roses and sweet peas, but they can stand against odds that the more fragile flowers cannot…. They can bloom in the fall, even after a frost. Even after all other flowers have given up.”

A scarf connects two women both coping with tragic events which lead to loss and heartache.

In 1911, Nurse Clara Wood survived the Triangle Shirtwaist fire. The fire was the deadliest industrial disaster in U.S. history. The fire resulted in the death of 123 women and 23 men. In the book, Clara was able to get out of the factory in time only to see those who jumped, including a man she had feelings for, to their deaths rather than face the flames. However, the trauma of the fire and what and who she has lost haunts her and she accepts a job on Ellis Island caring for sick immigrants. There she meets a man with whom she feels a connection as he has a loss like her own. She is drawn to the scarf he has, and the name embroidered on it. In helping the man obtain some of his belongings, she learns some truths and is left with a decision concerning the “truth” and whether to tell the truth and in doing so will she herself learn some “truths”?

In September 2011, widow Taryn Michaels is working in a specialty fabric store. Her life is turned upside down when a photograph of her is published in a magazine. The photograph shows her and a man who helped her on September 11, 2001 when she was attempting to meet her husband at the World Trade Center when tragedy struck. In the book, her husband dies in the collapse in the World Trade Center. The attacks on 9/11 killed 2,996 people and injured 6,000 others (according to Wikipedia).

“Everything beautiful has a story it wants to tell. But not every story is beautiful.”

The book is about both women but mainly focuses on Clara’s story. With dual story-lines, I find I always enjoy one more than the other and this was the case here. I did enjoy Clara’s story more but wonder if that is because her story was given more attention in this book. Her story takes up most of the book. I did learn some about scarlet fever and how immigration was handled during that time specifically when dealing with ill immigrants. I enjoyed how the Author showed Clara being unwilling to move on with her life as her friends were gently prodding her to do just that. To move on, to stop being stuck, and to finally see the “truth” about not only how she was living but also about the man who died the day of the fire. Having said that, I also feel that the Author could have moved things along a little faster in this aspect.

I would have liked to have seen Taryn’s story-line fleshed out a lot more. She lost her husband in 9/11 and is coping with the guilt that he was on a certain floor in the tower because she asked him to meet her there. She is also wrestling with what her daughter’s reaction will be when she learns this information. I remember watching the towers fall on television. I can’t even imagine what it must have been like to be in NYC during that time and after. In this book Taryn was saved by a stranger as so many were that tragic day. I really would have loved more about Taryn’s experiences in this book. Her story line got the short end of the stick her and I would have liked to have known more about her and her daughter.

Overall, this was an enjoyable read about two women who share the theme of loss and have a connection to a scarf. Their story-line’s eventually merge, and it was rewarding to learn how. As the Author used real life tragic events, I wish she would have given both equal time. I know I have said that before in my review, but I just wanted a little bit more. I realize that Clara’s story-line is necessary for setting up the reason for the connecting of both story-lines, but I feel that could have been done with giving more focus to Taryn’s story-line as well.

This is a great book for books clubs as there is a lot to discuss here: historical events, loss, tragedies, love, denial, what constitutes love, survivor’s guilt, moving on, coping with loss of a loved one, transference, ethics, etc.


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