Wednesday, January 20, 2016

A FALL OF MARIGOLDS by Susan Meissner

I was very reluctant to read this book, knowing that Meissner writes Christian fiction.  Furthermore, the fact that this novel falls squarely in the women’s fiction genre did not enhance its appeal.  Since it’s a book club pick, though, I dived in and was very pleasantly surprised.  The writing did not turn me off, and the storyline totally grabbed my attention.  Two women have lost men in devastating New York tragedies—one on 9/11 and the other in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in 1911.  In both cases, the men who died were in the wrong place at the wrong time, and the women in the story are coping not just with grief but also with guilt over their roles in why the men were where they were.  Ten years after 9/11, a photo of Taryn from that awful day surfaces in a magazine, and she has to relive the events surrounding her husband’s death in a way that she has avoided until now.  The main character, however, is Clara, a nurse on Ellis Island in 1911, who cannot bring herself to leave the island, after surviving the shirtwaist factory fire.  Before the fire, she had met a man on the elevator who seemed to have potential as more than a passing acquaintance.  The image of him leaping from the flames to his death is horrific, and Clara buries herself in her work.  She then meets an immigrant, Andrew Gwynn, whose wife has died of scarlet fever en route to the United States.  Clara becomes involved in his personal life, stumbling upon information that would be devastating to Andrew, leaving Clara with the difficult decision of whether to share the information with him.  I didn’t really see any elements of Christian fiction until I reached the end, but I also found the ending, in Taryn’s case in particular, to be a bit overly tear-inducing.  Anyway, I really liked the first 80% of the book, and that’s enough for 4 stars.

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