By Carol Edgarian
Scribner, 9781501157523, March 2021, 336pp.
The Short of It:
Not the thrilling historical novel I expected.
The Rest of It:
I can’t recall any other stories I’ve read that were set during the San Francisco quake of 1906. For this reason, when Vera showed up on my doorstep I was very excited to read it. Much of the city was destroyed by the quake itself but whatever was left was taken by the fires that resulted from compromised gas lines and the like. In Vera, Vera and her sister Pie are left without a home, their mother killed in the quake. Young, but old enough to fend for themselves, they head to Madam Rose’s house to take refuge. But when they arrive Rose is nowhere to be seen and Vera and Pie are left wondering if she survived the quake.
You may have caught my mention of it above, Rose ran a brothel and was known to many in the area. A brothel is not a place for young girls to take refuge unless you want a reputation to go with it. However, Vera and Pie don’t have many options and when Rose’s hired man, Tan, finds a way to make a living and to keep the food on the table, Vera and Pie stick around while Vera vows to find Rose and to bring her back.
There is an interesting cast of characters in this novel and Vera is likable and plucky and determined. I enjoyed her persistence but felt that overall the story was lackluster. What could have been a thrilling adventure was only lukewarm in the telling. I was in the devastating Northridge quake, right at the epicenter and can speak from experience. It’s a harrowing event to live through and needs become known quite quickly like how will one relieve themselves when no running water exists? How will one buy supplies when there is no power and ATMs don’t work, or even filling up the gas tank to get out of town. Gas pumps do not work when there is no power. Obviously, the story is set in 1906 so these characters don’t worry about such things but I didn’t sense the immediate panic that one experiences after such a devastating event.
All in all, the story was just okay for me. I think it could have been a lot more riveting had we been given a real sense of the panic that these two women felt.
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher.
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.
8 thoughts on “Review: Vera”
“Lackluster” is the perfect word for this one. Too many charcters and a story that goes no where fast. I still have about 20% left but it’s been a struggle. I read The Nature of Fragile Things in 2021 by Susan Mesiner, also set against the 2021 and loved that story and charcters.
You and Jean recommended the same Meisner book. I must check that one out because this one left a lot to be desired. I found myself a little impatient with the characters.
After that one, I picked up that Rossiter book which was great and now I have an oldie, The Husband’s Secret by Moriarty which I am nearly through with. That woman does not disappoint. I’ve read nearly all her books during this pandemic.
That’s disappointing. I think this time period would be a good place to set a story and write about that panic. But clearly that did not happen here.
The set-up was solid but then it petered out quickly, at least for me.
Aw, darn. It sounded so promising but I get you on the realism of post-disaster. Been there with Hurricane Katrina. Sometimes people get it right but usually they don’t.
I think the author was headed in the right direction but the girls seemed to just run from one place to another and seemed kind of silly to me. Young girls can be silly, I get it. But in a natural disaster they panic, big time.
The description of this one sounds promising so it’s disappointing that it didn’t live up to its potential. I agree, having lived through a couple natural disasters recently, that if a book doesn’t have that sense of urgency, it hasn’t captured the moment.
Thanks for the review on this one. I had a copy but then it went back to the library due to time. But maybe I will skip it if it doesn’t really get to the heart of what was going on etc.