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.
Edgarian weaves a wonderful tale of struggle, youth, perseverance, love and the lack of it, and much of what makes us human beings. The story could be a medieval morality play, wherein the ultimate moral good is one’s survival, and that of those one holds dear. It is rich with real and created characters ... well written and flows from chapter to chapter as it captures a difficult but evocative time in the life of one of America’s great cities. It is well worth a read for this alone, if not for the gripping story of a young girl’s struggle and coming to age during the life shattering events of the earthquake and fires of 1906.