Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Audiobook Review: A Fall of Marigolds by Susan Meissner

Publisher: Christian Audio
Pub. Date: March 11th, 2015
Length: 9 hours, 48 minutes


A beautiful scarf, passed down through the generations, connects two women who learn that the weight of the world is made bearable by the love we give away....

September 1911. On Ellis Island in New York Harbor, nurse Clara Wood cannot face returning to Manhattan, where the man she loved fell to his death in the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire. Then, while caring for a fevered immigrant whose own loss mirrors hers, she becomes intrigued by a name embroidered onto the scarf he carries…and finds herself caught in a dilemma that compels her to confront the truth about the assumptions she’s made. Will what she learns devastate her or free her?

September 2011. On Manhattan’s Upper West Side, widow Taryn Michaels has convinced herself that she is living fully, working in a charming specialty fabric store and raising her daughter alone. Then a long-lost photograph appears in a national magazine, and she is forced to relive the terrible day her husband died in the collapse of the World Trade Towers…the same day a stranger reached out and saved her. Will a chance reconnection and a century-old scarf open Taryn’s eyes to the larger forces at work in her life?

What Did I Think About the Story?

I absolutely LOVE Susan Meissner's writing and A Fall of Marigolds is no exception. I continue to marvel at her ability to present two seemingly unrelated narratives, in different times and, often, different places, that always somehow weave together with even the tiniest bit of connection. Being the huge historical fiction fan that I am I also love that she often picks unique perspectives and situations that I haven't read about before. In this particular novel she also presented a perspective on a more recent national tragedy - the collapse of the Twin Towers - causing me to be just as enamored by this storyline as the historical one (which rarely happens for me!).

As the synopsis says, in the past storyline Nurse Clara Wood is somewhat hiding out on Ellis Island in an attempt to put her life on pause and not really deal with the tragedy she witnessed when the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire blazed right in front of her eyes and took the life of the man she had just started having feelings for. The vast amount of the novel takes place in this storyline and the reader (or listener in my case) gets a great sense of the lasting trauma and heartache Clara experienced after this event, especially given the guilt she carries that her sweetheart's death was her fault. While I can't say that I exactly understood her continued love for the man who died (they hadn't even gone on a date) I did feel quite sad for the way she felt after the experience. The very idea of leaving the island causes her physical distress and I really enjoyed the fact that a chance encounter with a sick immigrant during her work on Ellis Island, combined with the support of a no-nonsense yet caring doctor, formed the catalyst to have her finally deal with what she experienced and to work to get past the terror and move on with her life.  It was also fascinating to get to see Ellis Island through her eyes when it was still in operation and to get a feel for the vast amount of humanity that came through its doors.

While the present storyline dealing with Taryn Michaels was much shorter and therefore less developed than Clara's, it was actually my favorite of the two storylines as I felt like I could almost viscerally understand and experience what she went through. Having actually been alive when the Twin Towers went down (I was in college and distinctly remember the school dismissing classes and walking into my apartment to see the second tower fall) I felt a palpable dread listening to Taryn's recollections of that day and was amazed at the author's ability to place me down on that horrified and gritty street as the world fell apart around Taryn and the others near ground zero. Listening to this, especially when Taryn relays her guilt (like Clara's) that her husband's death was somehow her fault, brought me to literal tears and made for an interesting driving experience as I fought to control my emotions. The way the author wrapped up Taryn's story, and how she incorporated the scarf so important to both stories into that conclusion, was wonderful and left me with such a hopeful, satisfied feeling about the story overall and the future these characters would have.

I can't forget to mention the skill of the narrator (Tavia Gilbert) as I've learned a narrator can make or break a story's overall enjoyment. I was amazed at the emotion Tavia was able to put into both storylines and I completely blame her for my tearful reaction to Taryn's recollections of 9/11. She nearly broke my heart with it, but then was able to bring the hope back into the story and leave me feeling quite satisfied. She was also surprisingly good at altering her voice for both main characters as well as the secondary ones, the women and men both, and each one truly had their own voice and personality.

A Fall of Marigolds further affirmed my love for Susan Meissner's books, which is great as I will be beginning her newest novel, A Bridge Across the Ocean, very soon and have really been looking forward to it. With this particular story I was amazed at how similar Clara and Taryn's experiences and emotions were even though they were generations apart and lived wholly different lives. I listened to this audiobook on a long trip home for the weekend and stayed completely glued to it until it ended. If you haven't read Susan Meissner's novels before I highly recommend them and think A Fall of Marigolds is a great place to start! 


What Did I Think About the Cover?

I think it's very pretty, although I find it somewhat plain compared to some of her other novels. I do like that she get to see the titular Marigolds as well as get a hazy peak at some buildings that I think might be Ellis Island. Overall a nice cover.

My Rating: 5.0/5.0

My Reviews of Susan Meissner's Other Books

Lady in Waiting
A Sound Among the Trees
Secrets of a Charmed Life
Stars Over Sunset Boulevard

I purchased a copy of A Fall of Marigolds for my own library. All opinions are my own. You can find more information on the book, including other reviews and links to where you can purchase a copy, on Goodreads.


  1. Sounds like a wonderful story, will look for it.

    1. Oh all her stories are wonderful! I just love her writing and the way she incorporates both the past and the present into the overall story!