A FALL OF MARIGOLDS by Susan Meissner


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A scarf ties together the stories of two women as they struggle with personal journeys 100 years apart in Meissner’s historical novel (The Girl in the Glass, 2012, etc.).

In 1911, Clara Wood witnesses the traumatic death of the man she loves in the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire and chooses to bury her grief and guilt while ministering to sick immigrants on Ellis Island. The hospital’s remote and insulated from the rest of New York City, and she refuses travel to the mainland, even on her days off. Then an emigrant Welshman wrapped in his deceased wife’s distinctive marigold scarf arrives, and Clara finds herself reaching beyond her normal duties to help the quarantined man. The truths she uncovers about his wife trigger reflections about ethical decisions and compel her to examine her own convictions about life and a person’s capacity to love, as a colleague tries to help her. Gently interwoven into Clara’s tale is the story of widow Taryn Michaels, whose life 100 years later in some ways parallels Clara’s. Taryn works in a tony fabric shop, raises her daughter in the apartment above and does her best to avoid the overwhelming emotions she’s felt since she stood across the street from the World Trade Center and witnessed the destruction as the first tower crumbled. A recently discovered photo from that day is published in a national magazine and now, 10 years after 9/11, Taryn is forced to relive the events and face the guilt she’s harbored because she acceded to a customer’s request and stopped by a hotel to pick up a marigold scarf, an action that delayed Taryn from joining her husband at Windows on the World for a celebration she’d planned. Meissner is a practiced writer whose two main characters cope with universal themes that many people deal with: loss, survivor’s guilt, and permitting oneself to move on and achieve happiness again. Although their stories are unbalanced—Clara’s account dominates the narrative—the author creates two sympathetic, relatable characters that readers will applaud.

Touching and inspirational.

Pub Date: Feb. 4th, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-451-41991-0
Page count: 400pp
Publisher: New American Library
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 2013


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