Mary Coin

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9780399160707: Mary Coin

*An NPR Best Book of 2013*
*A BBC Best Book of 2013*
 

In her first novel since The God of War, the critically acclaimed author 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.

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About the Author:

Marisa Silver is the author of the novels The God of War (a Los Angeles Times Book Prize finalist) and No Direction Home; and two story collections, Alone With You and Babe in Paradise (a New York Times Notable Book and Los Angeles Times Best Book of the Year). She lives in Los Angeles.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

At first she thought someone had released a flock of birds into the room. The museum gallery whispered with the sound of wings and flight and she thought of the starlings wheeling through the flat Oklahoma sky, a solid flag of them waving in the currents of a wind. Was that seventy years ago? More?... A child’s cry broke through. Mary, always keen to a child’s distress, turned towards the sound. And there, across the room, hung the familiar charcoal gray shapes of the image that shadowed her life.... The gallery had grown quieter and, for a moment, Mary was alone with the picture. She saw her reflection in the glass. There they were. Two women named Mary Coin. If they met on the street in the high heat of a summer’s afternoon, they would be polite in the old fashioned way to show they meant one another no harm. “Hello,” they would say in passing. “My, but isn’t it a wretched day?”

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Marisa Silver
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