April 10, 2013

Mary Coin by Marisa Silver



Publisher: Blue Rider Press (Imprint of Penguin Group)
Publication Date: March 2013
Categories: Literary, Historical, Great Depression
Source: Blue Rider Press via Netgalley

Description:

Marisa Silver takes Dorothea Lange’s “Migrant Mother” photograph as inspiration for a breathtaking reinvention—a story of two women, one famous and one forgotten, and of the remarkable legacy of their chance encounter.

In 1936, a young mother resting by the side of a road in Central California is spontaneously photographed by a woman documenting the migrant laborers who have taken to America’s farms in search of work. Little personal information is exchanged, and neither woman has any way of knowing that they have produced what will become the most iconic image of the Great Depression.

Three vibrant characters anchor the narrative of Mary Coin. Mary, the migrant mother herself, who emerges as a woman with deep reserves of courage and nerve, with private passions and carefully-guarded secrets. Vera Dare, the photographer wrestling with creative ambition who makes the choice to leave her children in order to pursue her work. And Walker Dodge, a present-day professor of cultural history, who discovers a family mystery embedded in the picture. In luminous, exquisitely rendered prose, Silver creates an extraordinary tale from a brief moment in history, and reminds us that although a great photograph can capture the essence of a moment, it only scratches the surface of a life.

About the Author
My Thoughts:

As soon as I started reading Mary Coin I was transported to another place and time. I knew within the first few pages that I would enjoy this novel. The sections featuring Mary Coin and her children
especially impressed and haunted me. That family won't soon be forgotten by this reader.

The big question I have is why Marisa Silver didn't use the real names and real stories of the very real people behind the photo "Migrant Mother"? I understand that this is an imagined history of the photo and the photographer. Maybe this is just my WANT TO LEARN EVERYTHING quirk coming out? (Silver somewhat explains her thought process here)

Even though I wish this was more of an authentic history of "Migrant Mother" I highly recommend this admirable and engaging book.

In case you're interested (which you totally SHOULD be) here is a link to the story behind the iconic series of photos taken by Dorothea Lange.



22 comments:

  1. You're not alone, I would want the authentic history too!
    I still think this book sounds interesting, though. I knew nothing about the Great Depression until recently, so I'll look out for this one.

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    1. It's a fascinating time period to read/learn about. It's not an easy subject, of course, but necessary I think.

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  2. I would want the real story as well. I guess the author felt she was fictionalizing it too much to use the real names.

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    1. I kept looking up the facts of the story behind the photo. I do that with a lot of books. Any book that can inspire me to learn more about a subject is great, in my opinion ;)

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  3. I immediately started singing Tom Joad (in my head)while reading this. This book sounds amazing. Everything I know about the era is from Grapes of Wrath, Woody Guthrie, and Carnival (HBO). And that photo - you can read a thousand worries in that woman's posture and expression.

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    1. Isn't that photo fantastic and terrible all at once? There's so much there..whew. The book really is a great one!

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  4. I'm with you there, the real story would be better given that there is one and likely just as interesting; I'll have to read the author's comments on that. Still I suppose fiction allows for new interpretations.

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    1. Truth is stranger (better?) than fiction right? ;)

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  5. I will definitely be picking this one up after I get through my current stack of library reads. I see the author's point about basing it on the women instead of writing about them, but I think you can work within the facts too...I guess I will reserve judgement until I read it!

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    1. It bothers me that it bothered me, lol. The book is GREAT, it really is. I think it bugged me because I'm such a nut job for the true tales behind history? I don't want to put anyone off this book. It's a good one and it deserves a lot of readers :)

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  6. I've been seeing this everywhere so happy to see a review. The picture is so striking! Thanks for adding the link to the story behind the photos-- so fascinating. I'll have to put this one on the TBR.

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    1. I could stare at that picture all day. It's amazingly sad and touching. I hope you'll find time for this one Beth :)

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  7. I was falling down a Wikipedia rabbit hole within the first 50 pages, but I loved the story so much that I forgot about it pretty quickly. It was so powerful, I couldn't put it down.

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    1. You too huh?? I keep my phone right next to me when I'm reading something like this so I'm able to look up the people/places/events.

      I was the same way, I ate this one up and hated for it to end.

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  8. This is very interesting, about the photo and the people on it. I wanted to say that this photo has been included in the cover of a Spanish edition of The grapes of wrath, and I think it fits very well there too because of the story.
    This book has really made me want to know more about the photo!

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    1. This photo is perfect for The Grapes of Wrath :)

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  9. If the book is nearly as powerful as that famous photo, I'm in!

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  10. "A picture is worth a thousand words"
    This sounds interesting, Jennifer.

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    1. Indeed it is :) This book was very, very interesting!

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  11. Thanks so much for sharing that link! I had never read the original story about Migrant Mother. I added this book to my wish list as soon as I saw you post about it but I agree, the real story would have been so much better!
    Great Review!
    Rebecca @ The Key to the Gate

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    1. It's fascinating isn't it?? I love stuff like that. I'm a history nerd. ;)

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