The Magnificent Lives of Marjorie Post: A Novel - book cover
  • Publisher : Ballantine Books
  • Published : 15 Feb 2022
  • Pages : 400
  • ISBN-10 : 0593355687
  • ISBN-13 : 9780593355688
  • Language : English

The Magnificent Lives of Marjorie Post: A Novel

"This marvelous novel kept me up way past my bedtime. I just had to be there with the Post cereal heiress through every twist and turn."-Martha Hall Kelly, New York Times bestselling author of Lilac Girls

"Allison Pataki takes the reader on a luxurious ride filled with jet-setting locales and opulent mansions, while deftly revealing how Marjorie Post's humble beginnings fed her desire to become a new kind of heiress, forging her own way through the world and keenly aware of her legacy."-Fiona Davis, New York Times bestselling author of The Lions of Fifth Avenue


Mrs. Post, the President and First Lady are here to see you. . . . So begins another average evening for Marjorie Merriweather Post. Presidents have come and gone, but she has hosted them all. Growing up in the modest farmlands of Battle Creek, Michigan, Marjorie was inspired by a few simple rules: always think for yourself, never take success for granted, and work hard-even when deemed American royalty, even while covered in imperial diamonds. Marjorie had an insatiable drive to live and love and to give more than she got. From crawling through Moscow warehouses to rescue the Tsar's treasures to outrunning the Nazis in London, from serving the homeless of the Great Depression to entertaining Roosevelts, Kennedys, and Hollywood's biggest stars, Marjorie Merriweather Post lived an epic life few could imagine.
Marjorie's journey began gluing cereal boxes in her father's barn as a young girl. No one could have predicted that C. W. Post's Cereal Company would grow into the General Foods empire and reshape the American way of life, with Marjorie as its heiress and leading lady. Not content to stay in her prescribed roles of high-society wife, mother, and hostess, Marjorie dared to demand more, making history in the process. Before turning thirty she amassed millions, becoming the wealthiest woman in the United States. But it was her life-force, advocacy, passion, and adventurous spirit that led to her stunning legacy.
And yet Marjorie's story, though full of beauty and grandeur, set in the palatial homes she built such as Mar-a-Lago, was equally marked by challenge and tumult. A wife four times over, Marjorie sought her happily-ever-after with the blue-blooded party boy who could not outrun his demons, the charismatic financier whose charm turned to betrayal, the international diplomat with a dark side, and the bon vivant whose shocking secrets would shake Marjorie and all of society. Marjorie did everything on a grand scale, especially when it came to love.

Bestselling and acclaimed author Allison Pataki has crafted an intimate portrait of a larger-than-life woman, a powerful story of one woman falling in love with her own voice and embracing her own power while shaping history in the process.

Editorial Reviews

"A deliciously dishy deep dive into the storied life of one of America's uncrowned society queens . . . New-money heiress Marjorie Post isn't content to remain a society bride, and she bursts glass ceiling after glass ceiling as she remakes herself into a savvy entrepreneur, a visionary philanthropist, a presidential hostess, and much, much more. Allison Pataki brings a towering legend to life with warmth, wit, and clear admiration for a woman ahead of her time."-Kate Quinn, New York Times bestselling author of The Alice Network

"The Magnificent Lives of Marjorie Post is a richly detailed and impeccably researched triumph. Historical fiction readers will love this immersive and sweeping tribute to the fascinating Marjorie Merriweather Post."-Chanel Cleeton, New York Times bestselling author of The Most Beautiful Girl in Cuba

"With remarkable expertise, Allison Pataki has given literary voice to this legendary and remarkable historical figure. Here is an intriguing plunge into the very soul of a woman who walked both the hard and the beautiful roads of life and deserves to be remembered. The Magnificent Lives of Marjorie Post is transportive fiction at its best!"-Susan Meissner, bestselling author of The Nature of Fragile Things

"Allison Pataki has written a fascinating novel about one of Washington's most formidable female figures."-Nancy Rubin Stuart, author of American Empress: The Life and Times of Marjorie Merriweather Post

"A character study of a larger-than-life character whose truth was most certainly stranger than fiction, and whose influence can still be felt today."-Town & Country

Short Excerpt Teaser

Chapter 1

Battle Creek, Michigan

Winter 1891

I was raised in religion, but it was not God who loomed largest over my girlhood and its earliest memories. That was Charles William Post, Charlie, or simply C.W. to those who knew him best. To me, he was only ever Papa.

He cut no particularly imposing figure, what with his narrow frame, standing at just over six feet tall, and his fine, blue-­eyed smile. But the man molded my world, and then he went on and changed everybody else's as well.

You might say the same about my education, too, for although I went to school for all of my girlhood, it was on Papa's lap that I did the learning that would shape me. How Papa could spin a story, building worlds in my young mind until I came to believe that just about anything was possible. Because to Papa, anything was. There were the tales of the tall Springfield lawyer whom Papa admired, a family friend by the name of Mr. Abe Lincoln, who taught himself to read as a boy in a drafty log hut with nothing more than a tattered Bible and yet somehow found himself in charge of the White House. Of course Papa-­and then I-­knew all the presidents, but I loved the stories about Mr. Lincoln the best; Papa had made this singular man a friend while they lived in Springfield, after they'd both sprung up from nothing but their own grit and the fertile frontier soil.

Oh, but there were other good stories, too. Papa's words had me forging across the Great Divide on the back of a mule, just as he'd done as a young man with his brother, my Uncle Cal, the pair of them sifting for gold amid the red mud and the pines. He had me battling Chicago's Great Fire or else waiting out a night of dust storms in Oklahoma, shivering beneath a heap of scratchy wagon canvas as the coyote yips mixed with the wind skittering against a flimsy tin roof. He talked of pianos that didn't need human fingers to play and buggies that didn't need horses to pull them.

It always seemed to me that by the time I arrived in the world, Papa had tried his hand at pretty much everything: he'd been an inventor in California, a salesman in Illinois, a farmer in Nebraska, a rancher in the wild Oklahoma Territory. Success had come in fickle fits and bursts, with plenty of failure mixed in, but he'd managed to wed the sweetheart of his youth in the midst of it all. My mother, Ella Letitia Merriweather, a pale beauty with gray eyes and a reserved demeanor, came from a far more affluent family but the same Springfield roots.

The borders of my young mind and memory can barely contain Papa: fine-­featured, with an easy charm and smarts to best anyone else in the room, a sharp humor and a kind voice-­but then sick. Suddenly and frightfully sick.

It was this sickness that fueled our journey that winter, a journey that would end in a way that none of us, not even Papa, the incorrigible dreamer, could have possibly conceived.

Battle Creek welcomed us with a wall of cold air, the sort of air that stuns, needling your cheeks and causing the breath to stick in your nostrils on the way in. Beside me, Papa leaned on Mother to limp off the Michigan Central line train car and onto the frigid platform. After weeks of travel, we had arrived, and for that I was grateful, but I feared that our stop might be Papa's final destination.

"Your father is near the end of mortals," Mother had whispered to me on our long journey up from Texas, both her words and the skin around her lips pulling tight with worry. Our train car had rocked back and forth in a doleful rhythm as swaths of ice-­slicked farmland rolled past our frosted window. Papa groaned where he lay in the berth, the extra blankets doing little to warm his thin, trembling frame. I didn't know if perhaps he'd heard Mother's words and was trying to respond or if he was simply giving voice to the pain that gripped his failing body. I also did not understand why Mother couldn't put a tender hand on him or lean close to offer some soothing words of comfort, anything to lend him just a tiny bit of warmth. But then I'd rarely seen her do such a thing.

And to be fair to Mother, it wasn't she to whom Papa called out when he had the strength for words. "Budgie," he'd whisper, his breath a sliver of pearly mist in the cold compartment, his voice so faint that I almost couldn't hear my nickname over the rolling thrum of the train's forward motion.

"Yes, Papa, I'm here," I'd say, taking his wilted hands in mine and lowering myself down to pass the hours by his side. Singing the chaste Christian hymns he'd sung over my bedside. Thinking with an ache, but knowing better than to say aloud: Papa, please don't leave me. What would I do without you?

Papa's sympto...