Susan Meissner is an author who just keeps getting better and better with time. I have read many of her books and after finishing each one I think there is no way she could top this one—and then she does it again with her next book! This latest installment is truly a gem and I enjoyed savoring it in between my other books I was reading.
I didn’t want to devour this one in one sitting, instead I wanted to spread it out and enjoy the characters and the plot throughly. There is a lot in this novel to unpack and I think readers would enjoy savoring it more than rushing through—-but Meissner doesn’t make it easy with such a compelling plot.
If you haven’t read Susan Meissner’s novels this is one you do not want to miss but be prepared it’s an emotional read. It would be a great selection for book clubs too as there is a lot to discuss and this one would lend itself to some fun discussions.
April 18, 1906: A massive earthquake rocks San Francisco just before daybreak, igniting a devouring inferno. Lives are lost, lives are shattered, but some rise from the ashes forever changed.
Sophie Whalen is a young Irish immigrant so desperate to get out of a New York tenement that she answers a mail-order bride ad and agrees to marry a man she knows nothing about. San Francisco widower Martin Hocking proves to be as aloof as he is mesmerizingly handsome. Sophie quickly develops deep affection for Kat, Martin’s silent five-year-old daughter, but Martin’s odd behavior leaves her with the uneasy feeling that something about her newfound situation isn’t right.
Then one early-spring evening, a stranger at the door sets in motion a transforming chain of events. Sophie discovers hidden ties to two other women. The first, pretty and pregnant, is standing on her doorstep. The second is hundreds of miles away in the American Southwest, grieving the loss of everything she once loved.
The fates of these three women intertwine on the eve of the devastating earthquake, thrusting them onto a perilous journey that will test their resiliency and resolve and, ultimately, their belief that love can overcome fear.
From the acclaimed author of The Last Year of the War and As Bright as Heaven comes a gripping novel about the bonds of friendship and mother love, and the power of female solidarity. (summary from Goodreads)
Besides the author’s name, the setting of this book was what drew me in. When I was a little girl, the earthquake of San Francisco fascinated me! My great great grandmother actually lived there during the earthquake. She was a wealthy woman and I can still remember sharing some of her diary entries about the earthquake with my history class when I was in elementary school. The elegance of San Francisco during that time period mixed with devastation of the earthquake offered a unique and exciting backdrop to this novel and personally stuck out in my mind as a must read.
This book had so much interesting historical detail and the descriptions that the author added were superb. I felt lost in the city and the history and often found myself leaving off the book to research some little bit of historic detail that I read. She did a marvelous job creating a believable setting full of interesting historic bits and that is what stands out to me about this book. While I loved the characters and the story, the setting and history stole my heart.
I enjoyed Sophie’s character and her voice. She was strong and brave with a memorable presence in the story. Yes she had some flaws but for me the flaws became more endearing rather than off putting. She became more real for me and I enjoyed her very much as the heroine. And her relationship with Kat was charming and I loved watching it grow in the pages. There were plenty of secrets to uncover in this book too, it was like the gift that keeps on giving with so much little secrets (Martin I am looking at you!) that would be revealed which made it hard for me to savor but I made it happen!
This book was more in the vein of women’s fiction than romance which is why I think it would make a great book club pick. If you love historical fiction rife with details and setting, this is the novel for you! I adored the writing, characters, and of course the setting. This is an exciting, beautiful novel that you do not want to miss. Check it out now you will not be disappointed.
Book Info and Rating
Hardcover, 384 pages
Expected publication: February 2nd 2021 by Berkley Books
ISBN0451492188 (ISBN13: 9780451492180)
Free review copy provided by publisher, Berkley in partnership with Tall Poppy Writers/Bloggers, in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and in no way influenced.
Rating: 5 stars
Genre: historical fiction