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Publisher's Summary

In her first novel since The God of War, 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 singular 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 has any way of knowing that their chance encounter has produced 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 observed prose, Silver creates an extraordinary tale from a brief moment in history, and reminds us that though a great photograph can capture the essence of a moment, it only scratches the surface of a life.

©2013 Marisa Silver (P)2013 Penguin Audio

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
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  • Story

Narration does not do this book justice

The narrator for Vera was good, but the other two were not. The man had no inflection to speak of and ended every sentence in the same tone. The voice for Mary did the same; every sentence ended in a dramatic whisper and did not convey this character and killed the male voices. Otherwise, the book itself was absolutely stunning!!!! The themes were beautifully interwoven - time, history, family, parenting, self awareness. I am listening again despite my disappointment in the narration.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Marilyn
  • Bunker Hill, WV, United States
  • 10-06-15

Should Have Won an Award

This is the most touching and soulful book I have ever listened to or read. I have recently listened to several Pulitzer Prize winning novels and I am amazed that this was not a prize winner. The author was able to express so much emotion and inner feeling so accurately that I felt as if I was feeling what the characters were feeling.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Paula
  • Overland Park, KS USA
  • 03-13-13

Engaging, Inventive . . . Still I Wanted More!

As a reader who loved Grapes of Wrath, you might understand why I selected this book and perhaps, what I expected from it. I got quite a lot, but still sound myself wanting something more. Better narration for one, greater character depth for another.

That said, this is a remarkable work of fiction that weaves the lives and choices of three main characters in ways that seem plausible and realistic. I can imagine that it could have happened just the way the author portends. And what a great story it was. There are surprising choices and decisions made by each of the three characters that they carry with them through life. So it is with all of us.

I wanted better narration for the "voice" of Mary Coin. I wanted to understand her just a little better. I loved the narration for Professor Dodge and Vera Dare, but again, something hard to put my finger on was missing from their characterizations and descriptions that left me wanting.

Despite this, I enjoyed the book and found it offering much to think about. I recommend!

5 of 7 people found this review helpful

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A Deeply Moving Story

Exceptionally written and full of feeling and life. This novel is truly an intriguing story! I was sorry to see it end.

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Poetry

This book is gorgeously written. So many startling phrases that take you to a new place. Having just finished Nightingale by Kristin Hannah, which was full of trite and hackneyed writing, Silver's skill with the written word was heaven.

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Great story, narration at times distracting

I enjoyed this story very much. The ability to weave together disparate pieces of history into a compelling story is a gift. Kudos to Marisa Silver! At times, the narration caused me to focus more on the voices than on the story. Definitely worth the listen, though.

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Excellent book, excellently read

A moving, vivid story, with readers who are true to the text. The book breathes life into a forgotten world.

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Enjoyable listen

The author has a beautiful, but clever writing style. There were many phrases that I wrote down - something I hardly ever do. Vera's story is almost identical to that of Dorothea Lange and I enjoyed revisiting it. I have to admit that I didn't figure out how the story's were tied together until I was well into the book.

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One of the best books this year.

My grandmother recommended this book to me and she hit the nail right on the head. Beautifully written. Lots of insight into the philosophy of image making. I especially recommend this for anybody who is a photographer or is interested in the history of media. I'm planning to buy a hard copy of this so I can re-read some chapters. There are so many amazing quotes about photography.

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Mary Coin brings the historic photo alive

Where does Mary Coin rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

This is a very enjoyable book, well written and with an interesting premise. The story is based on real-life FSA photographer Dorothea Lange, Vera Dare in the novel, and the subject of her most famous photograph, the Migrant Mother -- Florence Owens Thompson (Mary Coin).Silver does an excellent job of bringing the two women alive and giving listeners a window both into their lives which were quite different but which were influenced profoundly by this image.I could have done without the Walter Dodge part of the story -- it didn't ring as true as the relationship and lives of Vera Dare and

Who was your favorite character and why?

Vera Dare/Dorothea Lange -- she was one of the few of the women photographers who worked for the Farm Service Administration. Her life story is fictionalized in the book but is based on real life events.

Any additional comments?

Definitely worth listening to!

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