Friday, November 27, 2009
Susan Meissner's White Picket Fences ~ Reviewed
WHITE PICKET FENCES
By: Susan Meissner
Published by: Waterbrook
When the storybook-perfect Janvier family temporarily "adopts" their teenaged niece, Tally, they assume they'll be helping her. But when Tally befriends her cousin, Chase, she soon realizes that he badly needs encouragement, too. When the troubled teens interview two holocaust survivors for a sociology project, will they trigger the healing process that everybody needs?
Secrets! When is it ok to keep a secret? This is what Amanda; Tally’s aunt says about them, “My grandmother had her secrets. My father had his. You have yours. And I… What do they really accomplish anyway? I mean, think about it. What secret did anyone any good? Can you think of one?”
Tally does think of a good secret. Josef and Eliasz told of their secret operation to save babies from the horrific conditions of the ghetto. It had to be kept a secret so that lives could be saved. Tally knew that her Aunt was hinting around that she should tell her the reason her father was off on a sudden trip to Europe. Her father has asked her not to tell and she wasn’t sure why but she wanted to keep the secret.
Tally’s father Bart is a drifter. Tally has lived more places than she could count. Bart left her at her grandmother’s house so that he could head to Warsaw to uncover a family secret. He would come for Tally after he found what he was looking for. But something neither of them planned on happened at her grandmother’s house.
After that unfortunate event Tally goes to temporally stay with Aunt Amanda and Uncle Neil, with their two children Chase and Delcey. Tally observes this two parented family. This is the first time for her to stay with them. Delcey isn’t crazy about sharing her room or having anything to do with her. Chase is in the same grade and they team up to do a project for school. Chase included his best friend in the mix as well. The three of them head out to learn about the Holocaust and its survivors. Chase just so happens to know two men in a nursing home they can talk to.
When Josef and Eliasz start sharing their story something is stirred in Chase and he can’t shake it. He starts to have nightmares and soon realizes that what he’s haunted by in his sleep is real. He searches for the missing pieces of his families past that will help him uncover some family secrets that have to be exposed. He could not be tortured by them anymore.
Susan once again pens a remarkable story I hadn’t expected. Her characters are believable, and talk about things you only think of, but don’t say. I truly liked how she discussed the horrific subject matter of the Holocaust, the survivors and the matter of family secrets. Which do you keep and which ones need telling no matter how painful you might think it will be to expose them. This is one very compelling story, of fighting for what is right, loving till it hurts and developing relationships that are loving and matter. I received a review copy of this book and I’m very glad I did.
Finding Hope Through Fiction
When I heard about this new novel from Susan Meissner, I was extremely excited because to me "The Shape of Mercy" is now a classic that all students who study the Crucible should also have to read. While "White Picket Fences" is a completely different type of book it is still incredible writing. For me, I would not necessarily call it a favorite, but overall as a whole (redundant I know, but making a point here) I enjoyed it. Looking at the cover of this book tells you the most of what you need to know. There is the white picket fence slats and then a spiders web weaving it's way right in. Perfectionism would make one want to get rid of the web and go back to perfection, but the artistic persona would believe that the web was part of the whole picture that made it a different kind of perfect. Really, this cover could not be more appropriate for the message within the story.
Several characters share their point of view and take the slot as the main protagonist going throughout the book. There is Amanda, the mother who realizes everything is fading from her grasp and her way of dealing seems to be to sit and watch it go. Then there is Tallulah, or Tally, the cousin that has had a roller coaster life, or at least it would seem that way to an outsider. Learning the obstacles and neat realities of her life is an adventure and really not all bad. Lastly of main people, there is Chase, the son who deals with a memory that he cannot see the entirety of and possibility seems to push him further and further to the edge.
There were times while reading that I was just ready for something to happen. While there are some action events in this novel that is not the type of novel that it is. This book is more about the inner part of a person and how things change and affect it. It is incredible the way that Susan writes and she can really get to you as a reader and challenge your own emotions and the way that you see things in your own life. So many people try to live the life of perfection and it is interesting how they react when things do not quite pan out that way. The questions and changes to the lives of the characters is not what one would expect after reading the book blurb or hearing a summary. There are psychological elements here and they are barely touched upon in the writing, but present non the less.
I personally, put this book on the keeper shelf, but recommend that when you read it to have some time available so that you can mull over just what it is that you should take from reading the novel.
Reviewed by: Margaret Chind