Book Review: Mary Coin by Marisa Silver

9780399160707HMary Coin

by Marisa Silver
ISBN 978-0-399-16070-7
blue rider press, Penguin Group, 2013

“What are the real lives of people surrounding the big facts of history?” —Marisa Silver

In the middle of the Great Depression, photographer Dorothea Lange worked for the United States government documenting the circumstances of migrant workers. In Mary Coin, Marisa Silver tells a fictionalized story based on the real lives of people in this famous Lange photograph: Migrant Mother

Silver’s version of the story spans a century and intersects the lives of three main characters: Mary Coin, a mixed-race mother who must raise her children in hard times; Vera Dare, a photographer who captures fleeting moments and turns them into history; and Walker Dodge, a professor whose passion for the minutia of the past leads to an intriguing discovery. Mary Coin’s mother, Doris, is another influential character, and her actions as a mother lay the groundwork for an important decision Mary makes later in the book.

Mary Coin touches on big life themes: motherhood, loss, sex, economic disparity, and the law of unintended consequences. Silver handles weighty subjects with a subtle touch, so the story doesn’t feel oppressive. She handles the light moments with strong writing, so messages don’t pass unnoticed.

I’m a fan of historical fiction and stories that grow out of a seed of truth, so the “realness” of this fictional book appealed to me. Silver’s skill as a storyteller made it compelling reading.


Watch Marisa Silver talk about her novel:,,9780399160707,00.html?Mary_Coin_Marisa_Silver


About Arlene Somerton Smith

Writer, laughing thinker, miner of inspirational insights, sports fan, and community volunteer

Posted on June 12, 2013, in Book reviews, Books for the beach, Books I borrowed, Books to read again and again, Fiction and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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