New York Times bestselling author Carol Edgarian delivers “an all-encompassing and enthralling” (Oprah Daily) novel featuring an unforgettable heroine coming of age in the aftermath of catastrophe, and her quest for love and reinvention.
Meet Vera Johnson, fifteen-year-old illegitimate daughter of Rose, notorious proprietor of San Francisco’s most legendary bordello. Vera has grown up straddling two worlds—the madam’s alluring sphere, replete with tickets to the opera, surly henchmen, and scant morality, and the quiet domestic life of the family paid to raise her.
On the morning of the great quake, Vera’s worlds collide. As the city burns and looters vie with the injured, orphaned, and starving, Vera and her guileless sister, Pie, are cast adrift. Disregarding societal norms and prejudices, Vera begins to imagine a new kind of life. She collaborates with Tan, her former rival, and forges an unlikely family of survivors, navigating through the disaster together.
“A character-driven novel about family, power, and loyalty, (San Francisco Chronicle), Vera brings to life legendary characters—tenor Enrico Caruso, indicted mayor Eugene Schmitz and boss Abe Ruef, tabloid celebrity Alma Spreckels. This “brilliantly conceived and beautifully realized” (Booklist, starred review) tale of improbable outcomes and alliances takes hold from the first page, with remarkable scenes of devastation, renewal, and joy. Vera celebrates the audacious fortitude of its young heroine, who discovers an unexpected strength in unprecedented times.
Edgarian (Three Stages of Amazement) follows a teenage girl who comes of age in the aftermath of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake in this visceral novel. Vera, 15, is the illegitimate daughter of Rose, a brothel madam who made a name for herself as a "much-favored prostitute" among gold miners. Raised by a foster mother, Vera longs to be independent like Rose, while her foster sister, Pie wants only to marry a local shopkeeper. Their plans change when an earthquake devastates the city. Vera and Pie seek shelter at Rose's house, which is still standing but Rose is gone. The two girls form an odd community of sorts with Tan, Rose's Chinese butler; Tan's family; several of Rose's girls; and a psychiatrist neighbor. While Tan sets up a makeshift outdoor kitchen to feed the city's dispossessed, Vera scours San Francisco for her mother. Slowly, the city begins to rebuild itself around them. Despite some anachronistic word choices, the author paints a vivid portrait of a metropolis teeming with sex workers, immigrants, corrupt politicians, and artists, and it's fun to follow two strong young characters with very different views on life. The result makes for a stirring testament to a resilient city that never knew the meaning of the word quit.