Author: Susan Meissner

:*Book Review*: A Fall of Marigolds by Susan Meissner

Posted Wednesday, 19 February, 2014 by jorielov , , , , , , , 6 Comments

Parajunkee DesignsA Fall of Marigolds by Susan MeissnerA Fall of Marigolds by Susan Meissner

Author’s Pin(terest) Boards: Susan Meissner

Official Author Websites: Site | Twitter | Facebook
Converse on Twitter: #AFallofMarigolds | #SusanMeissner

Genre(s): Fiction | Inspirational | Historical

[time slip] 1911 Ellis Island / Post-911 New York City

Published by: New American Library, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA), 4 February, 2014

Available Format: Paperback, Hardback, & E-Book
| Page Count: 400 |

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Acquired Book By:

I was contacted by the author (Susan Meissner) herself through Twitter (@SusanMeissner) back in December, 2013 about the possibility of receiving “A Fall of Marigolds” in exchange for an honest review which would be included on her official blog tour for its February release! I was beyond delighted at having been approached by her and readily agreed. As I have a non-giveaway policy for Jorie Loves A Story, this blog tour stop is not hosting the tour giveaway, but rather is solely a book review of the novel which is posted whilst the official tour is going on.  I received a complimentary ARC of “A Fall of Marigolds” direct from Ms. Meissner in exchange for an honest review.  In January 2014, I received the press materials from her publicist Ms. Clark at Penguin Group (USA). I am thankful for this wonderful opportunity, not only to read my first novel by Ms. Meissner but to host my first blog tour book review for Penguin Group (USA)! I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

Inspired to Read:

The inspiring moment for me is when I realised that although I hadn’t known about A Fall of Marigolds releasing February 2014, I had already planned to read Ms. Meissner’s novels! You might have noticed her name is threaded into my 70 Authors Challenge of which has a focus on Inspirational fiction!? All the authors I am reading over the 24 months of the challenge are linked to their main websites in my blog’s sidebar! The books I selected to read of hers are as follows: The Girl in the Glass, A Sound Among the Trees, and Widows and Orphans which starts the Legal Mystery series. As you will read on my 70 Authors Challenge page, I found the inspiration to select all 70 authors due to my readings of Writing for Christ, which is Ms. Casey Herringshaw’s bookish blog! She is also a stop on this tour and I feel I have come full circle from being a reader of bookish blogs to curating my very own! I am further esteemed to be in the company of an author group blog I started to hang out around in January 2013 [Southern Belle View Daily] and a reader blog I came to cherish as much as Ms. Herringshaw’s [Relz Reviews]!

I never dreamt that I would be hosting a blog tour for one of the authors I selected to read and I am humbled by the honour of having Ms. Meissner seek me out in the first place! She’s a wonderfully sweet woman and I am thankful our paths have crossed!

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Susan MeissnerBook Synopsis in the Author’s words:

The book is about two women who never meet as they are separated by a century. One woman, Taryn, is a 9/11 widow and single mother who is about to mark the tenth anniversary of her husband’s passing. The other is a nurse, Clara, who witnessed the tragic death of the man she loved in the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire in Manhattan in 1911.In her sorrow, Clara imposes on herself an exile of sorts; she takes a post at the hospital on Ellis Island so that she can hover in an in-between place while she wrestles with her grief. She meets an immigrant who wears the scarf of the wife he lost crossing the Atlantic, a scarf patterned in marigolds. The scarf becomes emblematic of the beauty and risk inherent in loving people, and it eventually finds it way to Taryn one hundred years later on the morning a plane crashes into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. The story is about the resiliency of love, and the notion that the weight of the world is made more bearable because of it, even though it exposes us to the risk of loss.

On the significance of ‘marigolds’:

Marigolds aren’t like most other flowers. They aren’t beautiful and fragrant. You don’t see them in bridal bouquets or prom corsages or funeral sprays. They don’t come in gentle colors like pink and lavender and baby blue. Marigolds are hearty, pungent and brassy. They are able to bloom in the autumn months, well past the point when many other flowers can’t. In that respect, I see marigolds as being symbolic of the strength of the human spirit to risk loving again after loss. Because, face it. We live in a messy world. Yet it’s the only one we’ve got. We either love here or we don’t. The title of the book has a sort of double-meaning. Both the historical and contemporary story take place primarily in the autumn. Secondarily, when Clara sees the scarf for the first time, dangling from an immigrant’s shoulders as he enters the hospital building, she sees the floral pattern in the threads, notes how similar they are to the flames she saw in the fire that changed everything for her, and she describes the cascading blooms woven into the scarf as “a fall of marigolds.”

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A time slip between two worlds of New York frozen in time itself:

I am not unfamiliar with the shirtwaist industry, as I previously disclosed I have read Rivington Street by Meredith Tax, of whom gives such a visceral experience through her narrative there is no illusion of the reality the girls faced in that industry. A Fall of Marigolds begins rather acutely in post-911 New York. To find myself curling into a fabric store made my crafters heart turn giddy indeed! I am plumb knitty over knitting, but what I truly want to explore in the future is quilting and sewing clothes! My heart warmed with the warmth of an internal fire whilst soaking in the first chapter as a customer murmured her gratitude for the shoppe! (My affection for quilting, mind you, grew out of my wanderings inside the world of Elm Creek by Jennifer Chiaverini!)

One of the early echoes of the novel is that for everything we see beauty inside, a story alights just outside of our view. I found myself resonating with this particular statement, as due to the nature of why I created the title of my own bookish blog: Jorie Loves A Story! Stories exist across mediums not merely hinged to the printed text of literature or even of spoken voice or motion picture. I heart the ability to seek out stories which endeavour us to step a bit closer to the greater picture of why living and experiencing everything we can bring into full focus. Stories enchant us as much as they evoke our deepest most gutting emotions. Stories have the ability to transcend time and sustain us during the roughest of seas which entreat on our everyday hours. I grew on the living histories which in of themselves were stories set into action by the voices of my grand-parents, great-grandmother, and parents. We inhabit such a small vacuüm of space whilst we’re here, but alas! The stories live past us and stitch into the tapestry of the world’s interconnected thread!

This fascination and intrepid enchantment of history and story, might even go as far to explain my personal preferences towards seeking out the skills of old world arts & crafts inasmuch as antiquing! The older a piece of furniture is in my mind is a greater chance of having the unique addition thus far amiss from a room! I like the tangibility effect of touching the past in ways that are visible in the modern age. I like wandering around antique emporiums as much as ambling through a small towne set to a  pace fifty years in the past. There is a subtle nudge to slow down, breathe, and live in harmony. Pieces of stories live all around us, each day we walk outside the door and wonder, “What if? And, what does that person do? What are their experiences? Where did that particular something or other come from?” It’s in our nature to wonder, to strive towards unearthing the mysteries, to put a history inside of an explanation which sounds more like the legacy of a life told through a story!

The etching desire of both lead characters needing closure for the traumas of their past is eclipsed by their stalwart resolve to leave out of step with time. To gather their wits by being withdrawn into a world which lives a harpoon throw from the reality neither wants to approach or excavate out the memories which haunt them. A time slip was naturally going to occur for Taryn and Clara, as each of them are on the precipice of living half in stasis and half in motion.

My Review of A Fall of Marigolds:

In choking honesty, Meissner draws us backwards into the morning when the world woke up once more to a day out of step with the reality we all knew. September 11th, 2001 is a day no one will soon forget, whether or not they lived in America or whether they lived overseas. The newsfeeds overtook the channels, and for this reader in particular who had spent the aching early morning hours in knee-deep research was a groggy grand-daughter at the other end of the line whilst her grandmother urgently tried to shake her to her senses about ‘a plane went down in New York’. I was caught in the segue between deep sleep and awareness, so I truly only heard ‘a plane went down’ which I mumbled was terrible before the line clicked off and I was snoring most likely oblivious to the world’s reaction. I remember waking by four o’ clock in the afternoon, eyes full of sleep and wandering into the living room to catch a light-hearted tv show of an unremembered name. Instead, as Taryn reflects on her part of standing underneath the Towers at ground-zero, I was only a bit past a thousand miles south completely gobsmacked to numbness taking in every channel as the tv flickered into view; I was simply transfixed.  I grabbed the phone without recognition and rang my grandmother. The fullness of that day I oft try to push aside and not reflect on. Images broadcasted on television left a dulling ache inside my soul, as it was all too much to process and see in vivid real-time reality. Half of what I saw was pulled as soon as it aired as it wasn’t even being filtered. Meissner deftly drew me back emotionally into the heart of that fateful day, and attached me directly into the heart of her lead character: Taryn!

The breath of realism breathed into each section touches you as the transition from Taryn to Clara arrive as mere whispers and shadows of each other. Meissner is a sensory writer giving her readers a treat to trick one’s mind into experiencing everything the characters are seeing, sensing, and internalising. The anguished heartache of Clara came propelling back to the forefront of my mind as the bits of information disclosed about the shirtwaist factory fire ignited in my memories from Rivington Street, the book I have previously mentioned reminded me that I have a sensitive heart and best tread cautiously in future readings by what I choose to internalise.

Grief wrapped up in the guilt of never knowing what could have been is one of our greatest struggles as we survive those who pass on. Whether or not, we were properly tethered to them or if they were a loved spirit who gave us joy during our days; gutting sorrow overtakes our sense of normalcy. We cannot always filter out our emotions anymore than we can filter out our memories. Our minds love to play games with us, toying us with images we witnessed as well as the incidents of terror which gripped us like a plague. Clara and Taryn are anchored by the very moments where their lives intersected with tragedy beyond logical reason. Their gutting emotional strife is brought to life in such an intoxicating manner, you’re finding your fingers pressed into the softness of the book cover nearly afeared for what you will find on the next page! Hours melt away as you drink through their lives as if you would be left adrift in not knowing where their days will lead them next.

I liked Clara as instantly as I endeared myself to Taryn, which is always a credit to the writer! Clara is one of the few bourne to find herself drawn to blood rather than bolt away from it on sight. A doctor’s daughter endued with the gift for nursing set a claim on her to find her way to Ellis Island taking care of the infirmed immigrants who felt muddled by how they were not walking ashore instead. Transposed against the brutal anguish of standing below the Towers as they fell on September 11th, my ears echoed with the pounding shock of the ‘noise’* of that day as it was heard in the late afternoon. I felt shell-shocked at four o ‘clock on the 11th, I felt as though Meissner dug into our conjoined memories of that horrid day and led us out the other end. To hold onto something more than the worst bits our centermost memories stored and tucked out of sight. The scarf of marigolds was a talisman of Hope and of Life.

The strangest realisation which washed over for me (towards the middle of the novel), is that I have purposely avoided medical dramas and medical-heavy stories for numerous years as I felt as though I needed an honest break from them. I had seen more than my fair share of medical dramas on television and perhaps, had unexpectedly burnt out from the viewings. Whilst wrapped up inside Clara’s side of the story, I nearly had forgotten she was a registered nurse on the front lines of combating diseases like scarlet fever, which of itself lends to a certain medical-esque narrative!

*noise: Here refers to all the conjoined sounds, screams, shatterments of glass, sirens, confused murmurings of the haggardly confused survivors, the intensity of the news anchors overwhelmed by anguish and grief, and the chaos of the events flickering into broad view on the television screen. Followed by eerie oblivion which characterised the silence, whilst everyone’s face and bodies were shrouded in whitish-grey. The absence of light and dark was obscured by debris falling like snowflakes. Everything merged together, everything felt oppressively real, the shock took forever to wear off, even if I was merely observing the horrors of those who were front and center.

All the emotions I had tied into my throat pummeled out of me by page 238. Overwhelming emotion and the stark despair of what Taryn realised in that pivotal moment which clouded her vision in despair. I felt her anguish and I felt it because of what I had witnessed myself on video feedback. Meissner humanised the disparity of the survivors and the observers. She breathed life into the stories of everyone we never knew before that awful morning when the world paused by the sheer terror of it all.

Life is an intricate fabric. We weave in the threads with each day we dare to breathe in and drink in all that we can learn or experience. It’s the in-between hours of when we are truly alive. The moments when we are not even realising where we are headed or how we are meant to reach our destinations. The living hours of where truth reveals itself to those willing to listen. Faith is lived best by accepting what we do not yet understand as a measure of hope for what we do. Love is the binding of our souls to help grasp the understanding which sometimes is blinded by fear, trauma, and grief. All of life has a purpose which propels us forward to greet each new day with the possibility that it will afford. Compassion. Empathy. Acceptance is the final gate we must cross through to complete the circle our footfalls led us to arrive inside.

New York | a backdrop I love:

I am uncertain if I have ever disclosed on Jorie Loves A Story, if my affection for New York City has been attached to me as long as I have watched motion picture set inside the city from my youth!? The fanciful synergy of a city bent on creativity and indulgence in an all-inclusive playground has held my esteem attention! Transferring off the screen into the world of print books and hearty narratives by wordsmiths who paint the city aflame with a pulsating heart where the story of success and of love go together in tandem! Mysteries eking out of the shadows and humbling stories of humanity which surround your soul in a respite of rumination. My journeys have not yet taken me to the city I’ve read about to the level I have, but a part of me feels as though I have been there. Lived a bit even. As the old saying tends to go, if you have a book in hand, you have a compass point in your soul! Travel doesn’t always have to be walked through the soles of your feet. There are times when the light of a novel can illuminate a specific setting and locale in a crystal of reason unseen by a living experience. Novels transport us beyond where time and space have earthly limits. We enter into the conscience linings of characters and in part, take out a piece of them into our own wanderings of imagination. Perhaps then, the essence of the city of New York has always held such a strong grasp of my yearnings.

It’s the city’s tenacity and resilience to overcome what befalls her that gives all of us the greatest hope of all for seeking a community of such unfaltering strength. They rally and bolster each other up whilst dealing with the impossible, soldiering through unspeakable horrors and rebounding together as though they had risen out of the ashes as one entity rather than thousands. New York City’s greatest blessing is the ability to hold onto Hope in the midst of devastation and rise again as a Phoenix.

A note of gratitude to Ms. Meissner:

I am full of gratitude to the author for writing a convincing story without pushing the envelope past what this particular sensitive heart can endure. The sequences in which she gave riveting and honest accounts of the scenes Clara experienced after the shirtwaist factory fire and of ground-zero for Taryn were bang-on brilliant in their conveyances. I applaud the choices Meissner made in eluding to the horror without having to take us there completely by imagery. What was included was expected as some living horrors can only be spared so far, but in her gentle grace of knowing the limits of tender heart readers, her own heart shined. The stories of Taryn and Clara evoke the realities of women like them who lived a life counterpart to their fictional ones. Meissner has writ a story with the softness and grace of a historian but with the ease of a novelist. I am forever grateful she approached me, as I feel our paths would surely have intersected if she hadn’t. Her writings draw me into the depth of where she is leading us and I feel blessed to have read this story of New York as my first Susan Meissner novel!

Extending into the heart of 9/11:  There is a book I have been meaning to read which illuminates a singular unspoken moment of compassion and humanity where one small town in Newfoundland found their airport was in dire need of re-directing inbound flights on September 11th, 2001. The book is called: The Day the World Came to Town and its the main reason my original fascination about the hearty compassionate souls who reside in Newfoundland made me curious about their maritime province!

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This book review is courtesy of the author: Susan Meissner

I give my gratitude to Ms. Meissner & to Penguin Group (USA) for allowing me the honour to be a stop on the “A Fall of Marigolds” blog tour! I was happily delighted I could participate! I hope I will be able to participate in future blog tours if the opportunity were to arise! Until then, please drop by my Bookish Events Featured on JLAS to see what is coming up next!

**Please Note: This is a non-giveaway stop on the blog tour. I do not host giveaways or bookaways of any kind on Jorie Loves A Story (as you can read in my Review Policy). Which is why my blog is not included in the giveaway hop via the author’s website. I agreed only to host a review stop whilst the tour was in-progress. Therefore, I do encourage you to leave me a comment but it will not be counted as an entry in the tour’s giveaway. Thank you for understanding!**

{SOURCES: Cover art of “A Fall of Marigolds”, Susan Meissner’s photograph; snippets of the book synopsis (taken from the Press Kit Q&A section), were all provided by Ms. Meissner’s publicity agent at Penguin Group (USA) and used with permission. Post dividers by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. Blog Tour badge provided by Parajunkee to give book bloggers definition on their blogs. Tweets were able to be embedded by the codes provided by Twitter.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2014.

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Posted Wednesday, 19 February, 2014 by jorielov in 20th Century, 21st Century, Author Found me On Twitter, Blog Tour Host, Book Review (non-blog tour), Death, Sorrow, and Loss, Diary Accountment of Life, Ellis Island, Geographically Specific, Historical Fiction, Immigrant Stories, Inspirational Fiction & Non-Fiction, Medical Fiction, Modern Day, New York City, Nurses & Hospital Life, Penguin Group (USA) Publicity, Post-911 (11th September 2001), Shirtwaist Industry, the Nineteen Hundreds, Time Slip