”The Daisy Children,” by Sofia Grant, HarperCollins, 2019, 427 pages, $15.99

When Sofia Grant read a nonfiction book, something stuck out to her. She couldn’t get the New London, Texas, tragedy out of her mind. As a writer of historical fiction, she wanted to include feelings and searched for personal accounts. “The Daisy Children” begins 80 years after the school explosion, which killed 300 children.

Inspired by true events, in Grant’s powerfully moving new novel, a young woman peels back the layers of her family’s history, discovering a tragedy in the past that explains so much of the present. This unforgettable story is one of hope, healing, and the discovery of truth.

When Katie Garrett gets the unexpected news that she’s received an inheritance from the grandmother she hardly knew, it couldn’t have come at a better time. She flees Boston — and her increasingly estranged husband — and travels to rural Texas.

Her distant cousin, Scarlett, meets her at the airport. Scarlett is friendly, flamboyant and quite different from Katie. They begin sorting through their grandmother’s possessions. They discover letters and photographs that uncover the hidden truths about their shared history and the never forgotten tragedy of the New London school explosion of 1937 that binds them.

Grant fictionalized the idea of parents who lost children in the explosion formed the Daisy Club and determined to replace them with babies born nine months after. Such social engineering had its consequences.

There have been all kinds of histories written about the New London school explosion, but none of them can show how the disaster could shape their descendants 80 years later. With her attention to historical detail, keen sense of empathy and strong character development, Sofia Grant personalizes the pathos and life-altering power of America’s worst school disaster in a way that no history can approach.

A universal story played out in a small East Texas town, and beyond, it makes for compelling drama just below the surface of life. “From the ashes and rubble of one of America’s worst tragedies, Grant has created a story of survival, remorse, pain and love in the only way it could be fully expressed — through a novel — one that will break and warm the hearts of readers.”

Sometimes the untold stories of the past are the ones we need to hear.

JoAn Watson Martin is an educator.

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