Alta Live: Carol Edgarian

The author's new novel, "Vera," takes readers on a whirlwind fictional journey through San Francisco's very real Great Earthquake and Fire of 1906.

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Imagine living through San Francisco’s Great Earthquake and Fire of 1906 as a 15-year-old girl who must, in the aftermath, form her own family of survivors. Bestselling author Carol Edgarian’s new novel, Vera, takes readers on a whirlwind fictional journey involving real-life events and characters. Edgarian sits down with Alta Live to discuss her groundbreaking work, reveal the inspiration for Vera, and answer your questions.


About the author:

Carol Edgarian is the author of the New York Times bestseller Three Stages of Amazement and the international bestseller Rise the Euphrates, winner of the ANC Freedom Award. Her articles and essays have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, NPR, and W, among many others. She is a cofounder and editor of Narrative, a digital publisher of fiction, poetry, and art, and a cofounder of Narrative in the Schools, which provides free libraries and writing resources to teachers and students around the world.


About the book:

Meet Vera Johnson, the uncommonly resourceful 15-year-old illegitimate daughter of Rose, notorious proprietor of San Francisco’s most legendary bordello and ally to the city’s corrupt politicians. Vera has grown up straddling two worlds: the madam’s alluring sphere of tickets to the opera, surly henchmen, and scant morality and the violent, debt-ridden domestic life of the family paid to raise her. On the morning of the great quake, Vera’s worlds collide. As the shattered 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. Together, they navigate their way beyond disaster. In Vera, Carol Edgarian creates a cinematic, deeply entertaining world in which honor and fates are tested; notions of sex, class, and justice are turned upside down; and love is hard-won. A ravishing, heartbreaking, and profound affirmation of youth and tenacity, Vera’s story brings to life legendary characters—tenor Enrico Caruso, indicted mayor Eugene Schmitz and boss Abe Ruef, tabloid celebrity Alma Spreckels—as well as an unforgettable cast that includes Vera’s young lover, Bobby, protector of the city’s tribe of orphans, and three generations of a Chinese family who compete and conspire with Vera.


Vera by Carol Edgarian

Scribner Book Company
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