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Thursday, March 14, 2013

Audible Book Review: White Picket Fences by Susan Meissner, with Print Giveaway

This is a family drama with intrigue and historical touches from the Holocaust as added interest.
White Picket Fences 
    by Susan Meissner
    Narrated by Bernadette Dunne

LENGTH 9 hrs and 19 mins
Program Type Audiobook
PUBLISHER Random House Audio
Genre: Christian Fiction
My Rating: 4.0 of 5.0

Publisher's Summary
When her black sheep brother disappears, Amanda Janvier eagerly takes in her 16-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?
©2009 Susan Meissner; (P)2009 Random House

Tally’s father is off on one of his many adventures having left her in the care of her grandmother. This is nothing new except that her grandmother has died and no one can reach her dad. Tally is suddenly brought home to live with her Aunt. Tally doesn’t want to tell Aunt Amanda where her dad has gone but she is becoming more concerned the longer he is out of touch. Amanda worries about her brother but also is worried for Tally’s state of mind.

What may appear at first to be a stable, normal home setting, complete with the “white picket fence”, turns into a stressed filled home. Everyone is keeping secrets and they are disrupting the family peace.

Chase has repressed memories from a traumatic fire when he was a child. Aunt Amanda wants to speak openly about the memories and get counseling help if needed. Uncle Neil doesn't think Chase remembers and he doesn't want to bring it up. Neil spends more and more time in the garage working on nice woodwork projects for others without recognizing that his wife and children feel that he has abandoned them.

Chase actually is struggling with the memories seeking to remember portions which have been blocked. While he tries to cope with this, he, Tally and Chase’s best friend work on a school project interviewing two men in a nursing home who lived through the Holocaust and helped to sneak babies out of the Ghetto.

There is very interesting history provided through the interviews of the delightful characters. Although the story starts a bit slowly, it twists with the intensity of Chase’s emotions, some not so appropriate choices by Amanda and some delightful connections that tie the characters. 

I particularly liked a section where Chase has an epiphany and a new beginning. I also enjoyed the history of the German Ghetto which was new to me. My ladies book club all enjoyed the book but we felt there were some issues left unresolved. Reading through the author’s notes at the end of the print and Kindle version gave some perspective on this. The notes were not part of the Audible file. 

The book is Christian fiction but not at all preachy and the characters are far from perfect. I recommend this story to those who enjoy intrigue in a family setting.

Audio Notes: I was very impressed with the narrator’s ability to capture the different ages, voices and emotions for the characters. It enhanced the story for me and made it move more quickly than reading would have.

I read this for my local Ladies Book Club. I downloaded it on Audible to speed my "reading" time.


For 3 Extra Bonus entries Visit the author's website and tell me something you find of interest.

* This contest is open US Only.
* This contest will close 10 PM (Central) on March 22, 2013.
The winner will be randomly selected from all entries.
Winners are asked to respond by email or the linked winners form within 72 hours of the announcement.


  1. Susan was born and raised in San Diego, CA


  2. Thanks for the great post and giveaway! I find it interesting that Susan wants to write to "always leave you with a message of hope "

  3. I love her blog design, it's so relaxing and pretty. I also learned she had her own newspaper column.

  4. I read her bio...she was born and raised in my favorite place...San Diego. She is currently directing the small groups ministries at The Church at Rancho Bernardo...I know it well. Small world.

  5. In 1995, she was offered a job as a part-time reporter for her county newspaper. In 1998, she was named editor of the Mountain Lake/Butterfield Observer Advocate paper. she was honored to win several awards over the years

    tiramisu392 (at)

  6. I find it interesting that when she is not working on a new novel, she is directing the small groups ministries at The Church at Rancho Bernardo. Thanks for having the giveaway!

  7. Oh... thanks for the giveaway! love finding me new authors!

    mestith at gmail dot com

  8. She likes to teach workshops on writing and dream-following!

  9. Her website is actually really amazing looking. what I find interesting is that she enjoys doing live chats with book clubs if she is able to. That is pretty awesome. I also didn't realize how many books she has written. I have heard of her, but I haven't read any of her work. I am looking forward to reading this book especially. shannonbereza(at)yahoo(dot)com

  10. Her husband is an associate pastor


Your comments are always appreciated!


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