A Fall Of Marigolds Summary & Study Guide
SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides for challenging works of literature. This 58-page guide for “A Fall Of Marigolds” by Susan Meissner includes detailed chapter summaries and analysis covering 38 chapters, as well as several more in-depth sections of expert-written literary analysis. Featured content includes commentary on major characters, 25 important quotes, essay topics, and key themes like Love at First Sight and The Power of Love.
Susan Meissner’s A Fall of Marigolds (2014) is an amalgamation of several literary genres, including historical fiction and romance. Meissner is well-known for setting her stories against the backdrop of significant historical events, and this particular story was inspired by filmmaker Lorie Conway’s documentary about Ellis Island, Forgotten Ellis Island. Meissner intends to donate a portion of her profits of the book to the Save the Ellis Island foundation, which is working to restore the hospital buildings on the island. In A Fall of Marigolds, Meissner integrates her interest in Ellis Island with two different yet related historical events: the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in 1911 and the terrorist attacks in New York on September 11, 2001.
These tragic events are connected through two narrators, Taryn Michaels and Tara Wood. Taryn’s husband died in the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York in 2001; Clara, a nurse, witnessed the Triangle Shirtwaist fire in 1911, which killed 146 people: garment workers who had been locked in and were trapped once the fire started. Meissner draws parallels between the two tragic incidents: Both occurred in New York, both are considered the deadliest of their kind (with 9/11 being the deadliest terrorist attack, and the Triangle Shirtwaist fire being the deadliest industrial disaster), and both heralded serious and long-lasting changes in the United States. The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire ushered in a wave of long overdue reforms to labor law and policy, whereas 9/11 ushered in the War on Terror, one in which the United States is still embroiled.
The book moves back and forth between the two eras. Taryn’s story plays out in 2011, 10 years after the terrorist attack, with frequent, heartbreaking flashbacks to the day itself. Taryn lost her husband that day, who never knew that Taryn had just learned she was pregnant. Taryn seems to be doing well, living above the shop where she works with her 10-year-old daughter, Kendal. However, the delicate balance of her life is upended when a reporter publishes previously unseen photographs of the aftermath of the attack: The pictures are of Taryn—covering her mouth with a beautiful scarf—and a man named Mick Demetriou, who helped her as they tried to escape the deadly wave of toxic dust and debris that coated the city after the towers fell. Taryn will finally have to face the guilt she fears and discuss with her daughter the events of the day, something she has managed to avoid for many years.
Clara Wood narrates the other timeline. Clara worked in the Asch Building, which housed the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. On the day of the fire, Clara had intended to tour the factory floor with the factory’s handsome accountant. Instead, Clara watches helplessly in horror as he and many others plunge to their deaths to escape the heat of the fire. Clara then goes to Ellis Island to work as a nurse, burying her grief in her work. However, Clara, like Taryn, has not fully dealt with the tragedy she experienced. It is not until she meets Andrew—a Welsh immigrant who lost his new bride to scarlet fever on the voyage to America—that Clara is also forced to face her feelings of guilt and loss.
In addition to the connection between the two tragedies, Meissner develops several parallels between the two protagonists. The reader is introduced to both Clara and Taryn after the incidents in question and follows along as they finally come to terms with their losses and begin to heal. Both women suffer the aftereffects of the tragedies, and both women must explore questions of love and guilt, navigate their new roles as survivors, and learn to forgive themselves. Meissner explores the complicated terrain of survivor’s guilt and the enormous power of love in all its forms.