Mary Coin: A Novel

( 20 )

Overview

Bestselling author Marisa Silver takes Dorothea Lange’s Migrant Mother photograph as inspiration for a story of two women—one famous and one forgotten—and their remarkable chance encounter.
 
In 1936, a young mother resting by the side of the road in central California is spontaneously photographed by a woman documenting migrant laborers in search of work. Few personal details are exchanged and neither woman has any way of knowing that ...

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Mary Coin: A Novel

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Overview

Bestselling author Marisa Silver takes Dorothea Lange’s Migrant Mother photograph as inspiration for a story of two women—one famous and one forgotten—and their remarkable chance encounter.
 
In 1936, a young mother resting by the side of the road in central California is spontaneously photographed by a woman documenting migrant laborers in search of work. Few personal details are exchanged and neither woman has any way of knowing that they have produced one of the most iconic images of the Great Depression. In present day, Walker Dodge, a professor of cultural history, stumbles upon a family secret embedded in the now-famous picture. In luminous prose, Silver creates an extraordinary tale from a brief event in history and its repercussions throughout the decades that follow—a reminder that a great photograph captures the essence of a moment yet only scratches the surface of a life. 

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What People Are Saying

From the Publisher
Praise for Mary Coin:
 
Mary Coin is quite simply one of the best novels I have read in years. 'You'll know who you are when you start losing things,' says one character, and the story burns in this quietly emphatic way, only to erupt in moments of excruciating pain and beauty.  In her portrayal of a time in American history when survival was often a day-to-day thing, Silver drills down to the absolute essentials: family, love, loss, the perpetual uncertainty of life. Again and again I found myself wondering: How does she know that? Silver's wisdom is rare, and her novel is the work of a master."
—Ben Fountain, author of the 2012 National Book Award winner Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk

“Marisa Silver renders the soul of an iconic image, giving it moving life. Mary Coin is a soaring work of imagination, dedication and history.”
—Mona Simpson, author of My Hollywood and Anywhere But Here

“An extraordinarily compassionate and wise novel, Mary Coin imagines the life of Dorothea Lange's iconic "Migrant Mother." What emerges, in Silver's nuanced, resonant telling, is a poignant exploration of a single life that touches many others, and a powerful, moving portrait of America during the Great Depression. Silver is one of those preternaturally gifted writers who can with the lightest of touches make the reader enter a world that feels as fully real as the one around us.”
—Meghan O’Rourke, author of The Long Goodbye

“Inspired by Migrant Mother, the iconic Depression-era photograph snapped by Dorothea Lange in 1936, Silver reimagines the lives of both the photographer and the subject....this dual portrait investigates the depths of the human spirit, exposing the inner reserves of will and desire hidden in both women....The luminously written, heart-wrenching—yet never maudlin—plot moves back and forth through time, as history professor Walker Dodge unpeels the layers of the photograph’s hidden truths.”
—Margaret Flanagan,Booklist

“[A] superb new novel....Silver’s acute observations and understated style are evident here as are her matter-of-fact, unapologetic characters....mesmerizing...Silver has crafted a highly imaginative story that grabs the reader and won’t let go. A must-read for Silver fans that is sure to win over many new followers; the acclaimed author’s best work to date.”
Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

“Marisa Silver’s transfixing new novel...deftly sprinkles historical fact into her fictional narrative...a raw and emotional tale that leaves readers with a lingering question: Do photographs illuminate or blur the truth?”
O, The Oprah Magazine

“Gorgeous … This narrative of mid-century hope, loss, and disenchantment is both universal and deeply personal. With writing that is sensual and rich, [Silver] shines a light on the parts of personal history not shared and stops time without destroying the moment.”—Publisher’s Weekly,STARRED REVIEW

Mary Coin is the fictionalized story of [the “Migrant Mother” photograph], with Mary standing in for the actual subject, Florence Owens Thompson, and Vera Dare standing in for Dorothea Lange....a story ready and waiting for a fictionalized treatment. And Marisa Silver does it full, glorious justice. The story is compelling and honest, never sentimentalized or made easy, the writing exquisite in its luminous clarity. Silver accomplishes much in this work, including giving a human face and story to overwhelming disaster, just as the original photograph did....Silver’s story is artful in a way that life often is not, carrying the story of one family through several generations....This novel is simply not to be missed. It is memorable.”
Historical Novels Review

“Silver is an evocative, precise writer...[she] smoothly integrates ephemeral period details...[Dorothea] Lange's photograph and the world it conjures up is inherently melodramatic. But Silver's writing isn't: she's restrained and smart. Throughout her novel, Silver tackles big questions about the morality of art and, in particular, the exploitation of subjects in photography.”—Maureen Corrigan, NPR

“Special recognition therefore goes to Marisa Silver, whose new novel, Mary Coin, fictionalizes the circumstances of the most famous image of the Depression...the book is a skillful, delicate apprehension of that photograph and its moment in history....[Silver is] a fine, delicate stylist, with an aphoristic style that fills even simple moments with meaning.”—USAToday

“Silver never rushes her story. Instead, she takes her time, setting down the particulars of her characters with palpable care….Silver's focus on the discretely biographical [produces] some truly lovely lines and deeply moving scenes…I read Mary Coin in a day—eager to know who this 32-year-old migrant mother was and willing to imagine how it must have felt to be known for all time for an instant in time, to be invaded by conjecture of both the casual and novelistic sort. A photograph is a single snap. In Mary Coin, Silver suggests all that echoes after that.”
—Beth Kephart,Chicago Tribune

“[A] compelling, hard-to-put down story....As the cover of the novel suggests, the story emanates from the photograph, “Migrant Mother,” taken by Dorothea Lange in 1936...it continues to haunt us. Just as Silver’s new novel will linger and haunt, attached as it is to the famous photo, which wonderfully deepens the story behind the making of history.”
—Nina Schuyler, TheRumpus.net

“Silver’s provocative new novel [is] a fictionalized, multigenerational account of [Dorothea] Lange’s life and the life of her migrant farmworker subject. Silver writes beautifully and has meticulously researched her historical details, making for an informative, addictive book whose Depression-era narrative feels particularly relevant in today’s recessionary times.”
People
 
“This resonant novel, teasing clues from a famous photograph, keeps us both looking and seeing. And admiring.”
Kansas City Star
 
“In Mary Coin, Silver takes a picture and spawns the proverbial thousand words many times over. The result is a stirring human portrait of two women and the times they lived in.”
Los Angeles Times

From the Publisher

Praise for Mary Coin:
 
Mary Coin is quite simply one of the best novels I have read in years. 'You'll know who you are when you start losing things,' says one character, and the story burns in this quietly emphatic way, only to erupt in moments of excruciating pain and beauty.  In her portrayal of a time in American history when survival was often a day-to-day thing, Silver drills down to the absolute essentials: family, love, loss, the perpetual uncertainty of life. Again and again I found myself wondering: How does she know that? Silver's wisdom is rare, and her novel is the work of a master."
—Ben Fountain, author of the 2012 National Book Award winner Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk

“Marisa Silver renders the soul of an iconic image, giving it moving life. Mary Coin is a soaring work of imagination, dedication and history.”
—Mona Simpson, author of My Hollywood and Anywhere But Here

“An extraordinarily compassionate and wise novel, Mary Coin imagines the life of Dorothea Lange's iconic "Migrant Mother." What emerges, in Silver's nuanced, resonant telling, is a poignant exploration of a single life that touches many others, and a powerful, moving portrait of America during the Great Depression. Silver is one of those preternaturally gifted writers who can with the lightest of touches make the reader enter a world that feels as fully real as the one around us.”
—Meghan O’Rourke, author of The Long Goodbye

“Inspired by Migrant Mother, the iconic Depression-era photograph snapped by Dorothea Lange in 1936, Silver reimagines the lives of both the photographer and the subject....this dual portrait investigates the depths of the human spirit, exposing the inner reserves of will and desire hidden in both women....The luminously written, heart-wrenching—yet never maudlin—plot moves back and forth through time, as history professor Walker Dodge unpeels the layers of the photograph’s hidden truths.”
—Margaret Flanagan, Booklist

“[A] superb new novel....Silver’s acute observations and understated style are evident here as are her matter-of-fact, unapologetic characters....mesmerizing...Silver has crafted a highly imaginative story that grabs the reader and won’t let go. A must-read for Silver fans that is sure to win over many new followers; the acclaimed author’s best work to date.”
Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

“Marisa Silver’s transfixing new novel...deftly sprinkles historical fact into her fictional narrative...a raw and emotional tale that leaves readers with a lingering question: Do photographs illuminate or blur the truth?”
O, The Oprah Magazine

“Gorgeous … This narrative of mid-century hope, loss, and disenchantment is both universal and deeply personal. With writing that is sensual and rich, [Silver] shines a light on the parts of personal history not shared and stops time without destroying the moment.”—Publisher’s Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

Mary Coin is the fictionalized story of [the “Migrant Mother” photograph], with Mary standing in for the actual subject, Florence Owens Thompson, and Vera Dare standing in for Dorothea Lange....a story ready and waiting for a fictionalized treatment. And Marisa Silver does it full, glorious justice. The story is compelling and honest, never sentimentalized or made easy, the writing exquisite in its luminous clarity. Silver accomplishes much in this work, including giving a human face and story to overwhelming disaster, just as the original photograph did....Silver’s story is artful in a way that life often is not, carrying the story of one family through several generations....This novel is simply not to be missed. It is memorable.”
Historical Novels Review

“Silver is an evocative, precise writer...[she] smoothly integrates ephemeral period details...[Dorothea] Lange's photograph and the world it conjures up is inherently melodramatic. But Silver's writing isn't: she's restrained and smart. Throughout her novel, Silver tackles big questions about the morality of art and, in particular, the exploitation of subjects in photography.”—Maureen Corrigan, NPR

“Special recognition therefore goes to Marisa Silver, whose new novel, Mary Coin, fictionalizes the circumstances of the most famous image of the Depression...the book is a skillful, delicate apprehension of that photograph and its moment in history....[Silver is] a fine, delicate stylist, with an aphoristic style that fills even simple moments with meaning.”USAToday

“Silver never rushes her story. Instead, she takes her time, setting down the particulars of her characters with palpable care….Silver's focus on the discretely biographical [produces] some truly lovely lines and deeply moving scenes…I read Mary Coin in a day—eager to know who this 32-year-old migrant mother was and willing to imagine how it must have felt to be known for all time for an instant in time, to be invaded by conjecture of both the casual and novelistic sort. A photograph is a single snap. In Mary Coin, Silver suggests all that echoes after that.”
—Beth Kephart,Chicago Tribune

“[A] compelling, hard-to-put down story....As the cover of the novel suggests, the story emanates from the photograph, “Migrant Mother,” taken by Dorothea Lange in 1936...it continues to haunt us. Just as Silver’s new novel will linger and haunt, attached as it is to the famous photo, which wonderfully deepens the story behind the making of history.”
—Nina Schuyler, TheRumpus.net

“Silver’s provocative new novel [is] a fictionalized, multigenerational account of [Dorothea] Lange’s life and the life of her migrant farmworker subject. Silver writes beautifully and has meticulously researched her historical details, making for an informative, addictive book whose Depression-era narrative feels particularly relevant in today’s recessionary times.”
People
 
“This resonant novel, teasing clues from a famous photograph, keeps us both looking and seeing. And admiring.”
Kansas City Star
 
“In Mary Coin, Silver takes a picture and spawns the proverbial thousand words many times over. The result is a stirring human portrait of two women and the times they lived in.”
Los Angeles Times

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780142180785
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 2/25/2014
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 63,344
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Marisa Silver

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.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 20 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(11)

4 Star

(5)

3 Star

(3)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(1)

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Sort by: Showing all of 20 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 8, 2013

    Best book I have read all year. Beautiful writing and great insi

    Best book I have read all year. Beautiful writing and great insight into her characters and the hardship of life in the Depression.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 29, 2013

    Left wanting more.

    While I was engrosssed with the story and its development, I was disappointed that it seemed to end suddenly and without a satisfactory resolution for the modern characters. Then again, maybe that is the grand theme: life is often messy annd without clean edges.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted April 5, 2013

    A Great Story

    The story is part fiction but the setting and events were true. It tells the true story of the depression and how one woman captures this truth in pictures. Very well written.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 7, 2013

    3 1/2 stars

    Interesting inspiration for the story.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 13, 2013

    Highly recommended!

    This book is beautifully written. It describes with such intensity the lives of the two women involved and the period in which it was written. I highly recommend this fabulous book!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 30, 2013

    My all time favorite

    I have always loved the cover picture. Silver created vivid characters and pulled me into the world of the people migrating west during the time of the dust bowl. My great-grandmother was part of this migration. She spoke little of the hard times but the shame of poverty never left. I could not put the book down and the images have stayed strong.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 27, 2013

    Even though I enjoyed the book tremendously as a work of fiction

    Even though I enjoyed the book tremendously as a work of fiction. I am a historian of the 1930's and everything Steinbeck, Dorothea Lange, and the Migrant Mother. I know the Dixon family personally as well as Florence Owens Thompson's family since 1990 because of my research. But I do recommend it as a great read. But, it is fiction and most of the information on Migrant Mother herself and her grandson who does exist is not completely accurate. There are good history books around if you want the facts. I really recommend that you read this book and then if interested look for books under migrant mother or Dorothea Lange. Great Read

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 20, 2013

    Very well done

    Great story ,well written

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 18, 2013

    Exposing the fiction of "truth"

    Beautifully crafted, a story built on an iconic image, but with some deep reflections about history in general. I loved it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 28, 2013

    Different - in a good way.

    Three main characters - all have interesting lives. Loved reading about the depression era. Overall an A+++ job.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 25, 2013

    Highly Recommended

    An emotional read!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 20, 2013

    Marvelous Writing

    I loved everything about this book!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 13, 2014

    Mary c C MARY COIN

    Pack your bags for a trip back to a time when the most you could hope for is some form of a roof for your head and a meager wage to feed your family. A period in our history that we have compacted into a single word, Depression. Marissa Silver has painted an all to true picture of the lives of her characters, how their paths crossed and how their chance meetings effected the lifes of their familes more than 60 years later. If you have ever found yourself in your grandmother's attic digging through old pictures and wondering not only who the person or persons that will be forever frozen in this one moment may be, but what was their life like and how their choices shaped the path that brought you to this very second..then this book is for you!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted December 27, 2013

    Can't get a readable book

    Unfortunately I wanted to give this book as a present, but could not find one without malformed pages.

    And so, I cannot comment on the story itself.

    0 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 9, 2013

    Good!

    The person who makes it sells it the person who buys it doesnt use it and the person who uses it doesnt know what it is. What is it?

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 17, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted June 7, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted May 19, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted May 26, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted May 25, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

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