Picture This: A Visit With Susan Meissner

Today’s post by the amazing Susan Meissner | @SusanMeissner

I’ve been a fan of Susan Meissner’s writing since I read her much-acclaimed novel, THE SHAPE OF MERCY. So I’m delighted that she’s with us today, sharing about her latest novel. We’ve got a copy of A FALL OF MARIGOLDS up for grabs today. See the entry form below for details.

Susan Meissner

Susan Meissner

A couple years ago I watched a documentary by author and filmmaker Lorie Conway called Forgotten Ellis Island; a hauntingly poignant exposé on the part of Ellis Island that no one has heard much about; its hospital. The two man-made islands that make up the hospital buildings haven’t been used in decades and are literally falling into ruins. The lingering images of rooms where thousands upon thousands from a hundred nations waited to be made well stayed with me. There had to be countless stories pressed into the walls and bricks and panes of glass of this hospital, stories of immigrants who were just a stone’s throw from a new life. But unless they were cured of whatever ailment they had arrived with, they would not set foot on America’s shores. Ellis Island hospital was the ultimate waiting room– it lay between what was and what could be. A great place to set a story.

When I first began pulling at plot threads, my first instinct was to tell a story about an immigrant struggling to remain hopeful while a patient at Ellis Island hospital. But the more I toyed with whose story this was, and the more photographs I looked at, the more I saw instead a young nurse, posting herself to a place that was no one’s address. The dozens of languages spoken at Ellis added to the unnatural homelessness of it. Why was this nurse here? Why did she choose this post? Why did she refuse to get on the ferry on Saturday nights to reconnect with the real world? What kind of person would send herself to Ellis not just to work, but to live? I knew something life-changing had to happen to her to make her run to Ellis for cover. As I began researching possible scenarios, I came across the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, which up until 9/11 was arguably the worst urban disaster to befall Manhattan. There were similarities between that fire and 9/11, including the tragic fact that many trapped workers jumped to their deaths rather than perish in the flames.  For every person lost in disasters such as these, there is always his or her individual story, and the stories of those who loved them. I wanted to imagine two of those stories.

Meissner_Marigolds_Ellis nurses_caption

I knew I wanted something a person could touch, see, and embrace to tie these two stories together. I chose a scarf for rather deeply metaphorical reasons; they are accessories. They are meant to draw attention to something bigger. In this case, the scarf patterned in marigolds, and which links two women who will never meet, is there to draw attention to something far bigger than just the wearer. The book that evolved from looking at those haunting images of Ellis Island’s past is a story about the resiliency of the human spirit. It is centered on the truth that love, though the loss of it can tear your soul in two, is still the grandest thing there is, and is ultimately what will mend that heart that is broken.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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A Fall Of MarigoldsA beautiful scarf patterned in marigolds ties together the stories of two women as they struggle with grief 100 years apart.

In 1911, nurse Clara Wood witnesses the death of the man she loves in the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire and chooses to bury her grief and regret while ministering to sick immigrants on Ellis Island. Insulated from the rest of New York and the world, she refuses to set foot on the mainland, even on her days off. When an emigrant Welshman arrives wearing his deceased wife’s distinctive scarf, Clara finds herself drawn to the man and what she perceives as shared grief. But then she discovers something about the man’s wife that he does not know which places Clara in a moral dilemma while she ponders the depths and resiliency of love. Interwoven into Clara’s tale is the story of 9/11 widow and single mother Taryn Michaels, whose specialty fabric shop seems to cushion her against the overwhelming regret she’s known since witnessing the fall of the North Tower on September 11. On the eve of the tenth anniversary of 9/11, a newly published photo of Taryn watching the towers fall forces her to not only relive the event but face again the guilt of knowing that had she made different decisions that day, her husband would’ve lived.  The story is about the resiliency of love, and the notion that the weight of the world is made more bearable because of it, even though it exposes us to the risk of loss.

 

About Ariel Lawhon

Ariel Lawhon is co-founder of the popular online book club, She Reads, a novelist, blogger, and life-long reader. She lives in the rolling hills outside Nashville, Tennessee with her husband and four young sons (aka The Wild Rumpus). Her novel, THE WIFE THE MAID AND THE MISTRESS, will be published in January 2014 by Doubleday. Ariel believes that Story is the shortest distance to the human heart.

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37 Responses to Picture This: A Visit With Susan Meissner

  1. Gwyn February 27, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    I love Susan Meissner! She is one of my favorite authors. I haven’t read this book yet. I am looking forward to reading this one.

  2. Rhonda February 27, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    I love books that connect the past with the present.

  3. Ann Bresnan February 27, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    Sounds good!

  4. Ruth Walters February 27, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    Have never read this author…story sounded interesting…would love to read !!

  5. Nicole February 27, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    Sounds good! And I like the cover, too!

  6. Jen February 27, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    Since seeing the American Experience episode on the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, I have been interested. I am looking forward to this!

  7. Gina Holmes February 27, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    I love Susan’s writing. It was such a nice surprise to get this post from her in my inbox. Very much looking forward to reading this one!

  8. nancy reynolds February 27, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    This sounds like a fantastic story. Thanks for this chance to win. I wish you best of luck with this book – and all you do.

  9. Paula Dolin February 27, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    I love historical fiction – would love to read this book!

  10. Katherine Jones February 27, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    I’m always up for a Susan Meissner novel!

  11. Kathleen Basi February 27, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    I second Katherine Jones. :)

  12. Susan Wilson February 27, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    This book sounds like such an intriguing story! I can hardly wait to read it!

  13. Paula Caurro February 27, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    I have not read any of Susan Meissner’s books, but A Fall Of Marigolds is on my to-read list.

  14. Judie McDonald February 27, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    I remember visiting Ellis Island years ago and it giving me such a haunting feeling. I’m looking forward to reading a story about it.

  15. Sherry February 27, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    I put this on my to read list as well . I certainly want to read this book!

  16. cindy February 27, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    I’ve never read any of Susan Meisner’s books but I would love to read this one!

  17. LRC February 27, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    The book sounds interesting-I’d like to read it and then I’d share with my mom and sister (s)-we do that alot-sharing books back and forth and I love sharing books with family and being able to discuss them! So thanks for the chance to win an interesting book!

  18. LRC February 27, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    Oh and I did put something on FB also-not sure if I needed to “say” that but just in case…:)

  19. Lucy February 27, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    TY for the chance.

  20. lrc February 27, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    I rarely do Twitter but I am a follower of She Reads and I had my account before today but I’m not sure I put in the right URL for to show my tweet since I so rarely do Twitter-needed to clarify since I didn’t want She Reads to think I’m trying to get an extra entry I shouldn’t have:) it’s all on the level-promise:)

  21. Deb Kinney February 27, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

    This sounds intriqueing. I’d love to read it!

  22. Kate I. February 27, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

    Thank you for sharing the photo that inspired A FALL OF MARIGOLDS. Knowing the story behind the story always enhances the reader’s experience.

  23. Jessica McCann (@JMcCannWriter) February 27, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

    I’ve had my eye on this book for a while. This post has me even more intrigued. Thanks for the chance to win a copy.

  24. Melissa Crytzer Fry February 27, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

    This book sounds SO good. I am evermore a fan of the dual-period novel (and ironically just watched a PBS special about the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire). Must read! I must! Thanks for the opportunity to win.

  25. Janet R February 27, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

    I’ve GOT to read “Marigolds”!! How intriguing!!

  26. Denise Duvall February 27, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

    I never knew, that the nurses who worked on Ellis Island actually lived there. These women must have been really dedicated to their work. It must have been difficult to communicate with all the passengers, who needed their help. Thank you for the giveaway.

  27. Susan Gruener February 27, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

    Love historical novels! Would love to read this book!
    Thanks She Reads!

  28. Marie February 27, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

    I’ve yet to read anything by this author. This looks like a great place to start!

  29. Susan Sarabasha February 28, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    I am very excited to have found this group. Just finished reading The Invention of Wings and wanted more good historical fiction based on fact about women.

  30. Connie February 28, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    I’m really looking forward to this novel.

  31. Rita Newlin February 28, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    I have read several of Susan’s books. I have enjoyed every one of the. I would love the book about Ellis Island it sounds so interesting.

  32. Katie @ Doing Dewey February 28, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

    I love hearing how thoughtful the author was when choosing how to connect her stories! This sounds like a really lovely book.

  33. lana March 2, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

    After reading The Shape of Mercy, I am a huge Susan Meissner fan. Love the word picture of Meissner as she wove the story for this book in her mind. She said there were “thousands of stories ‘pressed’ into the walls and bricks and panes of glass of this hospital. “

  34. Debbie March 2, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

    This sounds like another great book from this author!

  35. Becky March 2, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

    Have loved all of Susan’s other books & already had this on my to read list. Very excited to read it!

  36. Heather N March 2, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

    This books sounds like one I won’t be able to put down! Can’t wait to read it.

  37. Susan C. March 3, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    This would be a great gift for my cousin Marigold who loves historical fiction!

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