About the Book:
When her black sheep brother disappears, Amanda Janvier eagerly takes in her sixteen year-old niece Tally. The girl is practically an orphan: motherless, and living with a father who raises Tally wherever he lands– in a Buick, a pizza joint, a horse farm–and regularly takes off on wild schemes. Amanda envisions that she, her husband Neil, and their two teenagers can offer the girl stability and a shot at a “normal” life, even though their own storybook lives are about to crumble.
Seventeen-year-old Chase Janvier hasn’t seen his cousin in years, and other than a vague curiosity about her strange life, he doesn’t expect her arrival will affect him much–or interfere with his growing, disturbing interest in a long-ago house fire that plagues his dreams unbeknownst to anyone else.
Tally and Chase bond as they interview two Holocaust survivors for a sociology project, and become startlingly aware that the whole family is grappling with hidden secrets, with the echoes of the past, and with the realization that ignoring tragic situations won’t make them go away.
Will Tally’s presence blow apart their carefully-constructed world, knocking down the illusion of the white picket fence and reveal a hidden past that could destroy them all–or can she help them find the truth without losing each other?
About the Author:
Susan Meissner was born and raised in San Diego, California, the second of three daughters. She married a man who served in the US Air Force. They moved to rural Minnesota in 1993 after seven years in the Air Force — five of them spent in Europe — and she became aware of a gnawing desire to write a novel. She ignored it while her children were young, choosing to try writing articles for magazines but nothing ever got published.
In 1995, she was offered a job as a part-time reporter for her county newspaper. The publisher gave her her own weekly column, In 1998, she was named editor of the Mountain Lake/Butterfield Observer Advocate, the town's weekly paper, after the county newspaper purchased it. She won several awards over the years, including was having her paper named the Best Weekly Newspaper in Minnesota by the Minnesota Newspaper Association in 2002.
In 2002, she suddenly had an incredible urge to write a book; a novel so she resigned as editor of the newspape and set out to write Why the Sky is Blue. It took four months to write and ten months to be accepted by a publisher and she has been writing novels ever since
When she's not working on a new novel, she is directing the small groups ministries at The Church at Rancho Bernardo or teaching workshops on writing and dream-following, as well as spending time with family, listening to or making music, reading great books, and traveling.
I enjoyed this book. As noted above, it dealt with family secrets and how even those kept with the best of intentions can cause a fence between people. It also showed how even good people can be tempted to sin--and that they are capable of saying "no". The book is classified as Christian fiction, but Jesus is never mentioned. The family goes to church, but if you didn't know what a church was, you'd figure it was a social club, based strictly on the information in this book. They pray and the main Christian theme of new life and redemption is there, but not as explictly as in most Christian fiction. I'd say this is a book that even non-Christians could enjoy.
Meissner is a gifted writer who is able to tie together WWII Poland and modern California; a ne're do well drifter and financial planner; a well-ordered family and painful secrets. I definitely recommend this one.
Thanks to Staci Carmichael at Random House for providing a review copy of this book.
Purchase on Amazon: White Picket Fences: A Novel