Book Review: Mary Coin by Marisa Silver
by Marisa Silver
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 http://www.bbc.co.uk/photography/genius/gallery/lange.shtml
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:
Posted on June 12, 2013, in Book reviews, Books for the beach, Books I borrowed, Books to read again and again, Fiction and tagged Dorothea Lange, Florence Owens Thompson, Great Depression, law of unintended consequences, Marisa Silver, Mary Coin, Penguin Group. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.