Saturday, November 14, 2009

Review: White Picket Fences by Susan Meissner

White Picket Fences
What I love about Susan Meissner is that she tackles these issues and themes that I love and that I don't think many authors deal with in a way that is satisfactory to me. I think this is because we share the same faith, but I would like to point out immediately that this is not a faith book. Which is to say that while there is some mention of God, this is not a book where the characters are grappling with their faith. So while they go to church, and there's a secondary character that brings up God, there is nothing that strongly distinguishes this book as Christian.*

The Shape Of Mercy is one of the best books I've read about perception and judgement and White Picket Fences is another excellent example of peeling back the layers to see what's inside. In fact the structure of this book is just perfect. We are introduced to the Janviers and they seem like the perfect family. Neil and Amanda are in love, they have one boy and a girl, Neil makes beautiful pieces of furniture in his spare time and donates them to charity. They take in their niece when her grandmother dies while her father is in Europe and they can't reach him.

So all seems fine and then BAM! We learn that everything is not fine. And the way this was introduced, I wasn't expecting it and then my lunch break was up! I can't tell you how frustrating that was! Anyway, there's quite a tragedy in the Janviers past and the parents aren't sure their son remembers it, but maybe he does and they are at odds with how to deal with it and meanwhile they haven't heard from their niece's father. The son, Chase, and the niece, Tally also are working on a sociology project where they interview some Holocaust survivors. This was also a great thread in the story.

I really enjoyed this book, but I'm going to confess that it wasn't perfect. In fact, I was really disappointed by one of the ways things turned out...I can't really say more than that, but I feel like Meissner took the easy way out in the resolution of one of the storylines.

But otherwise this is another great read, I really enjoyed it. It was gripping enough that I wanted to keep reading it and it was another great exploration of perception and the importance of embracing the past.

There's an interview with Susan Meissner at the back of the book that I also found very interesting and I really loved what she had to say, including, "To ignore what is ugly is to cheapen what is beautiful."

(*I mention this because some people want to know)

Rating: 4.5/5
Things You Might Want to Know: God is mentioned for about 2 pages. Also, very very minor language
Publisher: WaterBrook Press
Source of Book: Review copy


I have a copy of this book to giveway! I will ship it anywhere in the world, but you have to participate in the giveaway. I am doing the giveaway in a very different way--it's an idea I'm blatantly stealing from Kat.

To enter, you have to answer the question of the commenter before you and then ask another one yourself. So for example:
Commenter A: What's your favorite color?
Commenter B: Purple, what's your favorite Thanksgiving dish?

You can enter as many times as you like, but the commenter ahead of you must not be you! Does that make sense?

Go have fun!



bermudaonion said...

Okay, I'll get the ball rolling. What's your favorite college football team?

Carmen said...

Minnesota Gophers, who else!!! They are hardy with our cold weather!

What is your favorite book and why?

Just Mom said...

OOh - hard question! I'm going with Mandy by Julie Andrews - I always wanted my own escape and I'm a sucker for orphans.

What kind of pie will you have for THanksgiving?

Melanie said...

Hmm.. Either pecan or pumpkin, prefferably pecan. I love all that sugar. =)

Have you started shopping for the holidays yet?

Carmen said...

Yes, I've gotten my mother's Christmas and birthday gifts all done.

Are you cooking for Thankgiving or going to relatives? or other?

Gwendolyn B. said...

We're cooking AND visiting! First, it's dinner at our house with just us and my mom. Then it's dessert at my niece's house where a bunch of family will gather. I won't get to see all my family, but a lot of them!

Cats or dogs?

geebee.reads AT gmail DOT com

Carmen said...

Cats because they are easier to take care of. Yet dogs are more fun and more faithful!

If you had children, boy and girl, what would you name each?

rhapsodyinbooks said...

That is so funny about getting to a good part and your lunch break being up! I sympathize!!!!!!

Here is my answer to the comment above me (names for two kids, boy and girl): David and Zoe.

Next question: if you could pick any state to live in, what would it be?

nbmars AT yahoo DOT com

Zee said...

I'll play.

Pennsylvania I have family there and I miss them.

Which country would you live in if you could?

Bitsy said...

I think I would stay here in America. I live in a different state from my family and miss them a lot, I don't think I could live in another country!

What's your favorite comfort book/genre to read when you are sad or lonely?

Anonymous said...

When I am sad or lonely, the best comfort is reading Psalms.

What books are on your wish list for Christmas?

Shonda said...

I don't have any books on my wish list. What's on my wish list though. . . is a Kindle!

What's your definition of an "ideal" day?

Zee said...

A quiet one where I can curl up with a book.

What is your favourite holiday movie?

Bitsy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bitsy said...

Let's try that again with the right credentials.

My favorite holiday movie is Love, Actually. I still want to own that DVD, and the soundtrack!

Are you into art?

CherylS22 said...

I'm into art, especially the art of Leonardo DaVinci - The Mona Lisa, David, The Pieta, etc.


Next question: Do you send out holiday greeting cards?

Anonymous said...


Who is your favourite author?

karen k

Carmen said...

My favorite author would be Beverly Lewis on the Amish. Seeing pictures of the farms remind me of my growing up on the farm.

Do you have your own blog, and do you review books on it?

Bitsy said...

I have several blogs, and I post book reviews on one of them.

What was a recent controversial book that you read?

Unknown said...

Amy, loved that quote from the author!
Bitsy,I haven't recently read any controversial books, unless Harry Potter or The Golden Compass count.

Do you have a favorite book that you re-read in a special way, such as every summer, on your birthday, etc?

Veens said...

Sounds like a very good book!
And to answer the question, I don't re-rad a book but I do re- read certain quotes from a book, like The Kite Runner, the Thorn Birds etc.

What's the best book you have read this month?!

Dawn M. said...

Life As We Knew It - Susan Beth Pfeffer

What's your favorite holiday?

librarygrinch at gmail dot com

Carmen said...

Except for the real reason for Christmas, I like Thanksgiving, as the crazy hubbub of Christmas takes away from it's real meaning. Now I love gift-giving, but it sometimes gets out of control. Thanksgiving is more relaxing and can catch up with other family members lives.

What is your most memorable Thanksgiving?

Gwendolyn B. said...

Ahh! About 4 years ago. One of my older nephews was home on leave from Iraq. My 5-y-o nephew was in awe of him. And, the 5-y-o was just putting it together that the turkey on the table was somehow connected to the turkeys they had been making in kindergarten. There were some other "coming of age" happenings with my teenaged nieces which are private. All in all, it was a very homestyle holiday -- lots of people and food and undercurrents that were both serious and funny. I loved it!

Holiday dinner -- middle of the day? Late in the afternoon? Or after 8 p.m. Which do you prefer?

geebee.reads AT gmail DOT com

Melanie said...

I'd much prefer dinner sometime late in the afternoon. After fooling around with my cousins, I'm hungry!

What's one book you recommend to pretty much everyone you know?

Anita Yancey said...

The one book I recommend to everyone is Finger Lickin' Fifteen by Janet Evanowich.

What's the one thing your want most for Christmas?


Bitsy said...

To somehow be able to afford to travel and be with my family for Christmas.

Is there a board game that you and your family like to play when they get together?

Gwendolyn B. said...

No, but I wish there was. Now that the kids are a little older, we want to get more into board games. We're asking Santa for some!

Do you give multiple gifts to the same people at the holidays or do you keep it to one person, one gift?

geebee.reads AT gmail DOT com

Melanie said...

I like to stick to one gift per person and try to make that one gift really special. Quality over quantity.

Do you put up a real or fake tree for Christmas?

Dana said...

I put up a fake Christmas tree...the real ones give me a headache!

Do you have any other hobbies besides reading?

Anonymous said...

I enjoy cross-stitching.

Do you prefer hard back books or paper backs?

karen k

Bitsy said...

Hardbacks look better, I'll admit, but paperbacks are easier for me to hold and read.

Do you like to listen to music while you read or do you find it distracting?

Melanie said...

I like to listen to music without lyrics while reading. Otherwise, I find myself singing along!

What is the most nostalgic ornament you have?

Angela Tolsma said...

A pink porcelain ballerina from when I saw the Nutcracker for the first time when I was like six. Ever since then I've wanted to be a ballerina, hasn't worked out, but hey the dream is there.

What's your favorite lyrics and why?

CherylS22 said...

The most nostalgic ornament I have is a beautiful blown glass ornament that my parents bought in New York City.

Have you ever been to New York City to see the Rockettes holiday show & the tree in Rockefeller Center?

Carmen said...

I've never been to NYC. Would love to some day.

What is your favorite Christian song?

Melanie said...

Oh, that's a hard one. It's either "Love is Not a Fight" by Warren Barfield or "Slow Fade" by Casting Crowns.

What's your favorite Christmas song?

Gwendolyn B. said...

Oh, I love so many, but I could listen to THE CHRISTMAS WALTZ all year long.

Are you an early shopper or a Christmas Eve procrastinator?

geebee.reads AT gmail DOT com

CherylS22 said...

I'm an early shopper.

Is your holiday shopping done?

Melanie said...

My holiday shopping is barely started! However, I'm planning on buying my gifts for others in one somewhat-large swoop on Amazon. I'm hoping this will stop me from picking up too many random things.

Is watching "It's a Wonderful Life" a tradition in your home during the holiday season?

Gwendolyn B. said...

No. We do watch a lot of the kid shows -- the Grinch, Charlie Brown, etc.

Blue lights? Multi-colored? or serene white?

geebee.reads AT gmail DOT com

Melanie said...

Serene white, most definitely. Unfortunately, our house can't be seen from the road, so it's rare that we put any lights up. There's no one there to see them!

Do you read any other types of blogs, other than book blogs?

Bitsy said...

Just techy blogs, I'm a web designer and always like to stalk such blogs to keep up on the latest trends.

Are there any internet or real world comic strips you like to read?

Gwendolyn B. said...

I love PEARLS BEFORE SWINE and GET FUZZY!! I guess I have a weird sense of humor!

Have you ever found an interesting lost object in a public place? What was it and what did you do with it?

CherylS22 said...

I once found a work bag full of tools to work on computers as well as computer parts on the side of the road. I checked at the Computer Repair store that was nearest to my residence & was shocked to learn that that bag was lost by one of their technicians who had put it on his roof & forgot about it when he drove away! As a thank you, the tech came to the house & did some work on our computer that needed to be done.

What is your favorite holiday tradition?

Bitsy said...

My inlaws have an interesting tradition that I have come to love, on New Years Eve once the countdown is over and we have all shouted, "Happy New Year!" We spray silly string, confetti poppers, etc all over the Christmas tree! I thought it sacrilege at first, but now I've come to love it and it certainly looks festive the next morning, and helps get our butts in gear to take the tree down a lot sooner! Not so pristine any more. :)

What was the most recent book you bought, and why did you decide to buy it?

CherylS22 said...

I bought "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett because it was the book we were reading in our book group.

Do you prefer hardcover, trade paperback or paperback?

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