Title: White Picket Fences
Author: Susan Meissner
Publisher’s Synopsis: 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?
Wow. I’m late with this blog review because I had to read it again. Yes, I read this book in two readings almost back to back. It’s that good.
There are several plots that don’t really seem as intertwined as they are until they come together at the end. Now honestly, I knew they would– the book doesn’t try to hide the plot ties– but they don’t seem like they should intertwine as they appear and develop.
Tally- She’s a very deep character– I felt a little “Rory Gilmore” meets Abby from NCIS in her. She carries a lot of mature weight on her shoulders. Her story alone is a fascinating one and could fill its own book. I love how Ms. Meissner doesn’t leave you with the impression that the girl’s life is to be pitied as much as you’d assume. She lets you see the positives too.
Amanda- She’s not just another suburban mother in a perfect little home. As I read her story, I saw how easy it would be for anyone to end up exactly in her place.
Neil- He’s such a wise man in parts of the story and such an ostrich in others. I can’t reconcile his personality clashes within himself.
Chase- I loved how she didn’t take the easy out with Chase and his struggles. I know it might seem like it, but she didn’t. She left just enough of the ugliness of the past touching him still and left us with the ending that few authors would have chosen. She truly had me doubting him for a bit– but not in the way I expected to.
Delcey- She captured a talkative, self-absorbed teenaged girl perfectly. Just when you were sure she couldn’t think about anything of any depth, the girl surprised you. Well done.
Matt- So much of him was perfect for carrying the story where it needed to go but there were parts that made me scratch my head with “huh?”
The Warsaw Connection- In order not to give away the plot, I just had to say that this MADE the book. I think it took a good story and made it great. Well done.
To be honest, I was frustrated with the writing at times. In particular, there was one paragraph with four sentences. The first started with a name… the next three with “she”. That kind of thing drove me crazy when the story wasn’t carrying me along with it (and therefore out of the focus that kept me from noticing if it was continual or not. So, I don’t know if there were just a few glitches here and there or if a really well told story hid writing problems. Frankly, I don’t care. It’s a really well-told story and I think one that any fiction lover (and a few non-fiction types) should sink their teeth into. And then grab it and sink them again. You won’t be sorry. I wasn’t.
I will mention that there were two different words used a few times that generally one doesn’t find in books by Waterbrook. Nothing earth shattering… you can find them in the Bible. But, I thought I’d warn you.
I do have two copies of this one, both provided for review by Waterbrook, but I’m keeping one. I have a few friends who would like it and I want to read it again. Post a comment and maybe you’ll win this puppy!