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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.


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  2. Novel 'Mary Coin' based on famous Depression-era photograph.
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  4. ‘Mary Coin’ by Marisa Silver.

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.

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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? Mary Coin is a soaring work of imagination, dedication and history. 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. 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.

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…. This novel is simply not to be missed.


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  • It is memorable. Throughout her novel, Silver tackles big questions about the morality of art and, in particular, the exploitation of subjects in photography. Instead, she takes her time, setting down the particulars of her characters with palpable care…. A photograph is a single snap.

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    In Mary Coin , Silver suggests all that echoes after that. And admiring. The result is a stirring human portrait of two women and the times they lived in. Join Reader Rewards and earn your way to a free book!

    Mary Coin, Marisa Silver - 9780399160707

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    Marisa Silver

    In , 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.

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    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.

    She lives in Los Angeles. 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. Mary Coin is a soaring work of imagination, dedication and history.

    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. 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.


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    • 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 This novel is simply not to be missed.