Saturday, May 17, 2014

"A Fall of Marigolds" by Susan Meissner, a story of recovery

A Fall of Marigolds by Susan Meissner caught my eye in Barnes and Noble a few weeks ago and I immediately put in on my list. It caught my attention for two reasons. One, marigolds are October’s birth flower and therefore when I see or hear about them I think of Ziva. Second, the story. It’s about two women separated by time who both suffer through a great loss and their survival is linked to one scarf blooming with marigolds.

The story opens with Taryn who works at a quilting shop in Manhattan in September 2011. The 10 year anniversary of 9/11 is fast approaching and she lost her husband on that tragic day and is fighting the urge to hide until the anniversary memorials are over. She has been searching for a client, material that will match this marigold scarf, the scarf that saved her life. She is struggling to find a way to move on without leaving her husband behind.

The majority of the story is about Clara, a nurse on Ellis Island in 1911. She suffered a loss when the building she worked in burned. On March 25, 1991, the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire was one of the deadliest industrial disasters in the history of New York City and one of the deadliest disasters until 9/11. It caused the deaths of 146 garment workers (123 women and 23 men) when the owners had locked the doors to the stairwells and the exits which was a common practice at the time to prevent theft and unauthorized breaks. Many of the workers could not escape. The victims either died from the fire, smoke inhalation or falling and/or jumping to their deaths from the 8th, 9th and 10th floors of the Asch Building. Clara retreats to the Ellis Island hospital where incoming immigrants are checked for diseases and treated before sending them on to New York City.

I enjoyed this story very much. I enjoyed going on Clara’s and Taryn’s journey of recovery with the backdrop of two deadliest disasters in New York City history. I liked how the author described Ellis Island as the in-between place. It was between the old world and America. For Clara, it was in-between the past and her future. The main theme of this story is grief recovery and letting go of what might have been. There is a lot of history and detail about Ellis Island that I was not aware of. I would like to continue to learn more about Ellis Island and its history place in our nation’s history.

“Love is the only constant in a fragile world” -Clara