This yearning Vera feels—the true pulse of the story—is the desire to be accepted by her mother. Edgarian brilliantly captures the broken mother-daughter dynamic and Vera’s 'booming, wanting heart' with the persistent backdrop of abandonment, longing, and displacement of 1906 San Francisco. The mother, however, is a shocking mystery ... There’s space for love to thrive: the wounded are nursed back to health, and broken relationships are mended. The pieces come together gracefully, as they should. But Rose is untouched. If she has any remorse, she doesn’t show it. She moves along as always — impervious, distant, and gone. Though it’s unsurprising, it does leave the reader questioning what a mother could possibly want or not want to so insistently choose a life without her daughter. Whatever she is chasing, does she ever find it, and if she does, is it worth all she leaves behind? ... As the people drive the plot, the place where it’s all happening is falling apart. People choose resilience in the devastation and get back up again and again. What is profound is how something as communal as one’s city can still feel utterly unhomely ... If there’s a book that speaks urgently to a time of grief, resilience, wounding loneliness, and collective hope in one of the deadliest pandemics in history, it is Vera—a work to be cherished for what it uncovers in the pages and, possibly, the heart of the reader, one that brings a traveler to 'the other side by a surprise or a marvel or a song.'
Vera takes readers on a necessarily brief tour of her prosperous, thriving West Coast city ... When we’re hearing about Vera’s experiences, the book races along, even more so when we’re meeting other catastrophe survivors ... While the history strikes an authentic note, some of the narrative rings hollow. We care about Vera and her companions, but a subplot about urban graft doesn’t add much to the story, even when Vera’s path crosses with those of real-life pols Abe Ruef and Mayor Eugene Schmitz. Too much happens too near the end in a novel whose spiky, proto-feminist heroine should have been given more space to absorb the one lesson her mother imparts ... Vera doesn’t quite fit the usual parameters for a heroine of historical fiction, but perhaps that’s why she makes such an arresting narrator. Readers looking for one of those, plus a new perspective on the Great Quake, will find them in this novel.
Told from Vera’s point of view later in life, we follow Vera and her sister Pie (Morie’s daughter) as they attempt to survive the aftermath of the 1906 earthquake and fires. Written with distinctive and elegant prose, Edgarian paints a beautiful portrait of devastation ... At times reminiscent of E.L. Doctorow’s Ragtime , Vera is filled with characters based on historical figures like Eugene Schmitz, Abe Ruef, Alma Spreckels and Arnold Genthe, the photographer whose pictures of the earthquake’s devastation haunt viewers to this day. After recently reviewing another novel set around the 1906 earthquake, it was a unique reading experience to witness the same event through the eyes of a very different protagonist. A character-driven novel about family, power and loyalty, Vera ultimately asks if it’s possible to belong to another person.