MARISA SILVER in conversation with DAVID ULIN about her novel MARY COIN


MARY COIN (Blue Rider Press)

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.

Mary Coin is quite simply one of the best novels I have read in years . . . 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 finalist "Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk

Marisa Silver is the author of two 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 a Los Angeles Times Best Book of the Year). Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Best American Short Stories, and the O. Henry Prize Stories. Silver lives in Los Angeles.

Los Angeles Times book critic David L. Ulin authored The Myth of Solid Ground: Earthquakes, Prediction, and the Fault Line Between Reason and Faith and The Lost Art of Reading: Why Books Are So Important in a Distracted Time.

Photo by Bader Howar

Event date: 
Saturday, April 6, 2013 - 5:00pm
Event address: 
1818 N Vermont Ave
90027 Los Angeles
Mary Coin Cover Image
ISBN: 9780399160707
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Blue Rider Press - March 7th, 2013

Alone with You: Stories Cover Image
ISBN: 9781416590309
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Simon & Schuster - April 5th, 2011

The God of War Cover Image
ISBN: 9781416563174
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Simon & Schuster - April 14th, 2009

No Direction Home Cover Image
ISBN: 9780393328745
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Published: W. W. Norton & Company - July 1st, 2006

Babe in Paradise: Fiction Cover Image
ISBN: 9780393323849
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: W. W. Norton & Company - September 1st, 2002