Reading a book by Susan Meissner is like treating yourself to fine chocolate. Her last work was a masterpiece that left me aching to return to Italy. She is a masterful storyteller.
So, when I knew she had a new book releasing, I didn’t hesitate to enter a Goodreads giveaway for a copy, even though I knew next to nothing about the story. And I won!
A Fall of Marigolds has been sitting on my shelf for a few months while I tackled other reviews, but I recently finished it and can easily say this book makes my top whatever list of best books I’ve ever read.
The book opens in Manhattan 2011 with Taryn, a woman whose husband died in the Twin Towers on 9/11. She works in a specialty fabric store and lives above it with her 9-year-old daughter. A picture of her from the day of the tragedy surfaces suddenly and the quiet life she thought she’d gotten on with is disturbed.
Intertwined with her story is that of Clara, a nurse working on Ellis Island in 1911. She was a witness to the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire and has come to the island to escape the memories of her loss that day.
Both stories are steeped in heavy sadness, and honestly, I’ve been avoiding stories, documentaries and movies about 9/11 since the day it happened because I can sometimes still feel the weight of the national despair. I don’t often lean in to pain, and I might have been more hesitant to read this story if I’d known that was part of it.
And I won’t lie. This story is not all feel-good. There are heart-wrenching scenes as these two women, separated by a century of time, allow themselves to grieve the past and open their lives to the present and future. I had to set it down a few times and let the feelings sink in and pass before starting again.
The beauty of this story, though, is the thread of hope woven through the tragedies. Meissner does not avoid the reality of how these women were affected nor does she let them stay in their comfortable grief. When the story was finished, I felt full in my soul. I may have even released a satisfied sigh. This is one of those books that is not so much an escape as it is examination, helping readers to see that whatever hardship seems to be at the forefront, a larger, stronger force is at work.
After reading A Fall of Marigolds, I feel ready to explore other 9/11 literature, and I’d certainly read this book again.