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A Fall of Marigolds Paperback – February 4, 2014
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*Starred Review* Taryn Michaels specializes in hard-to-find patterns at an Upper West Side fabric shop. She is haunted by her failure to find a match for a scarf covered in bright marigolds, the same scarf she was holding when the Twin Towers fell in 2001, killing her husband. Unbeknownst to Taryn, the scarf began its life in New York on Ellis Island in 1911, when a very recently widowed Welshman carried it into the scarlet-fever ward of nurse Clara Wood. Clara, like Taryn, is hiding out in her work, having witnessed the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, watching the man she loved jump from an upper floor. When Clara discovers the terrible secret of the scarf’s original owner, Lily, she must decide if she can accept the help of a handsome doctor and brave the ferry to Manhattan to find answers. Meissner’s first mainstream women’s fiction novel, after more than a dozen Christian-fiction titles, hits all of the right emotional notes without overdoing the two tragedies; instead, she seamlessly weaves a connection between two women whose broken hearts have left them in an in-between place. A good choice for Christian-fiction readers, for book groups, or for readers looking for a book of hope without schmaltz. --Susan Maguire
“Like the golden threads of a scarf sprinkled with marigolds, Susan Meissner weaves two unspeakable New York tragedies—the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire and 9/11—into a shimmering novel of love and acceptance. Meissner’s heroines, Clara and Taryn, live a century apart, but their stories are connected not just by a bright scrap of fabric but by love lost. A compelling novel, A Fall of Marigolds turns fate into a triumph of spirit.”—Sandra Dallas, New York Times bestselling author of True Sisters
“Meissner has crafted a thoughtful story about lost loves and times past, illustrating how quickly disaster can take away what we hold most dear, and how ultimately we must move forward with hope in our hearts.”—Margaret Dilloway, bestselling author of The Care and Handling of Roses With Thorns
“A transportive, heartwarming, and fascinating novel that will resonate with readers in search of emotionally satisfying stories connecting past and present, and demonstrating the healing power of love.”—Erika Robuck, bestselling author of Call Me Zelda
“Weaves a compelling tapestry of past and present, of love and loss and learning to love again, of two women connected through time in a rich and unique way.”—Lisa Wingate, bestselling author of The Prayer Box and Tending Roses
“Susan Meissner knits the past and the present with the seamless skill of a master storyteller. A beautifully written, moving novel that had me gripped from the first page.”—Kate Kerrigan, New York Times bestselling author of Ellis Island
“Deftly weaves a story of love and loss... an inspiring story of hope and the belief that with tomorrow comes a new day full of promise.”—Lorie Conway, author/producer of “Forgotten Ellis Island”
“Susan Meissner has written a courageous novel, moving with great insight between the haunting parallel stories of two women trying to recover from the losses of a terrible fire in 1911 New York City and the unforgettable fall of the twin towers on 9/11. An uncommon celebration of the human spirit in the face of unspeakable tragedy, A Fall of Marigolds is a beautiful reminder that although life is perilous, love is a powerful healer.”—Kimberly Brock, 2013 Georgia Author of the Year and author of The River Witch
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A Fall of Marigolds is a story about two women, both struggling with a tremendous amount of grief and unsure of how to move past the losses they’ve had to face. Clara’s story takes up the majority of the novel, but Taryn’s is no less crucial to the story and just as heartbreaking. I really loved getting to know both women and loved how Meissner wrote both of their stories as separate but intertwined in a subtle way.
At first, Clara was a difficult character for me to like. She is very naïve and believes that she was in love with a man whom she barely knew, and believed with zero evidence to back up this belief, that he was in love with her as well. Watching people she worked with and was friends with literally die before her, either by being burned alive or jumping to their deaths, was incredibly traumatizing and she was deeply affected by that horrific experience. But still, it seemed as though she was unlikely to move on from that, and she almost clung to the immigrant she met who lost his wife, perhaps because they had a shared feeling of grief they were both dealing with. All that being said, I ended up REALLY liking Clara and rooting for her. I realized that she was simply the product of a sheltered home environment and almost no experience with men or dating, so she really couldn’t be held responsible for her naivety. She goes through some major emotional changes in the book and really grows as a person, not just with moving on past the death of the man she loved but also in her own ability to understand the world around her, I just loved her character development. By the end of the book I was pro-Clara all the way, and was so excited to see things start to come together in her life.
Taryn, on the other hand, I rooted for from the very beginning. Her experience was not only traumatic, but she carried a ton of guilt along with her pain, as she was supposed to meet her husband in the Twin Towers that day (that’s why he was in the building in the first place). She felt that she played a role in his death; and what’s worse, she was pregnant at the time and didn’t get a chance to tell her husband he was going to be a father. While her sections of the book were fewer and shorter than Clara’s, her story was extremely compelling and I hoped desperately for some resolution to the pain and grief that she still felt ten years after her husband’s death.
Ultimately the way that Meissner brings the stories of these two women together is beautiful and gave just the right resolution to both of them. I really enjoyed the flow of this novel and how Meissner blended historical fiction with a contemporary story. This was my first novel by Susan Meissner but it will definitely not be my last.
I found it interesting why the immigrants landed on Ellis Island and the isolation that was done when some came with a contagious disease.