Mary Coin.

Author:Silver, Marisa
Position:Book review

By Marisa Silver

A winner of the O. Henry Prize, Marisa Silver has published work in the New Yorker and The Best American Short Stories. She is the author of the novels No Direction Home (2005) and The God of War (**** July/Aug 2008) and the short story collections Alone With You (2010) and Babe in Paradise (2001).


THE STORY: Behind the most iconic image of the Great Depression--Dorothea Lange's 1936 "Migrant Mother"--a world of untold stories awaits. Marisa Silver unearths them, delving below official accounts to imagine personal histories and the people to which they belonged. There's Mary Coin, a fictionalized counter-part to the mother of seven in Lange's photo, who is caught in a struggle for survival when life has dealt her nothing but loss. Polio survivor Vera Dare, counterpart to Lange herself, is the woman on the other side of the camera. In present-day California, social historian Walker Dodge studies photographs for clues to the stories tucked inside. The journeys of the three characters, interwoven across decades, pose questions about family, home, and hope--and about looking, seeing, and seeking.

Blue Rider. 336 pages. $26.95. ISBN: 9780399160707

Kansas City Star ****

"Layered, recursive, wise, sensitive and elegant. ... This resonant novel, teasing clues from a famous photograph, keeps us both looking and seeing. And admiring." JEFFREY ANN GOUDIE

NPR ****

"Although it spans 91 years, between 1920 and 2011, Mary Coin is as expertly cropped and framed as a fine photographic print. ... By renaming her photographer Vera Dare and her destitute itinerant farmer Mary Coin, [Silver] slips the constraints of facts, freeing herself to create her own remarkable, quietly heroic yet very human characters." HELLER MCALPIN

San Francisco Chronicle ****

"Silver's writing is so evocative that her reader gets sore, hungry and mournful watching Mary stoop in a field, trying to keep her children fed by picking other people's peaches, tomatoes, cotton, cabbage and oranges. ... Lange's 'Migrant Mother' its touchstone, it's no surprise that one of the most extraordinary endeavors of this book is its profound meditation on motherhood." CLAIRE VAYE WATKINS

Milwaukee Jrnl Sentinel ****

"It takes a long time...

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