“‘You can see it all in her face,’ someone else said. What all? What do you see?“
Dorothea Lange’s iconic “Migrant Mother” photograph has elicited similar responses from thousands of people since it was taken in 1936. In Mary Coin, Marisa Silver has created a detailed history behind the image and its impact on American culture. The novel focuses on three distinct but connected characters, starting with Mary Coin well before her image was frozen as the mother in the photograph. Silver details her willingness to go to unimaginable lengths to hold her family together. Hundreds of miles away, Vera Dare is an insecure but talented photographer seeking the perfect outlet, despite an unsupportive family. And in the present-day, Walker Dodge is a history professor, trying to teach his students to look deeper into the history in front of them, while struggling with a family story he can't seem to unravel.
Silver does a fantastic job of knitting the lives of these three characters together, while staying historically accurate and culturally relevant. She is able to take a photo so many imagine they know the story behind and actually create one - a story that, in the end, we could all nod and say we saw in her face.