Tuesday, November 17, 2009

White Picket Fences by Susan Meissner - REVIEWED

“We choose how much we will carry away with us from the fire. Everyone else pretends they can’t even see the ashes.” (p.345)

Life is filled with fiery trials that often leave us with more questions than answers. Rather than admit we don’t have the answers, sometimes we just pretend that everything is fine, and we hide behind a mask of normalcy rather than face the truth of our shortcomings. Susan Miessner explores this concept in her latest book, White Picket Fences. The Janvier family lives in a comfortable, upscale community. Their two children, their nice home, their stable jobs all create a sense of security and normalcy that lulls them into forgetfulness. Then Tally arrives.

Amanda Janvier’s brother is missing, and his daughter has no place to go. When Tally’s nomadic existence comes in contact with the Janvier’s white-picket-fence lifestyle, no one is prepared for the fiery trial that erupts within the confines of their seemingly perfect home. Chase, the teenage son, is struggling with secrets from his past, Tully is struggling beneath the secret her father used as an excuse to leave her behind, and Amanda and her husband are wrestling against an ever growing chasm in their marriage. Nothing is as it seems. No one seems able or willing to face the truth. When Chase and Tully take on a school project that introduces them to two survivors of the WWII death camps, truth and trials suddenly come into a new light, and it becomes very important to everyone, one way or another, to reach the truth that lies behind their white-picket-fences.

Once again, Susan Miessner has written a haunting tale that pulls at your heart and imagination in a powerful way. On the surface, I couldn’t really figure out why it was so important for Chase to find the answers he wanted. I couldn’t understand Tally’s desire to be invisible. I totally didn’t understand what Amanda and her husband thought they were doing to protect their son. Then I looked beneath the surface. Their struggles belong to every man. Facing truth, speaking it to others and dealing with its reality is often an overwhelming task. And sometimes God alone can reveal the truth we are seeking. Finding the courage to ask for that revelation is not always easy.

I enjoyed this story. I think many who read it will question what lies behind their own picket-fences. We all live within created boundaries for one reason or another. Sometimes we think we are protecting ourselves and our love ones from the truth, when in reality we are just avoiding the truth altogether.

There are a few scenes that include curse words. I’m not sure why the author or the editor thought that was necessary. I imagine they thought it reflected the intensity of the moment. The spiritual content wasn’t a very integral part of the story, and the old WWII survivors were the only ones who portrayed much spirituality at all. The truth presented in the story is one of the human condition rather than a strong message of grace.

Look in the sidebar for a link to my give away for this book!


Mocha with Linda said...

Great review, as always!

Julie J. said...

I would love to win this one. I love books about the Holocaust!