Monday, February 13, 2012

Book Review: A Sound among the Trees by Susan Meissner

Title:                A Sound among the Trees
Author:            Susan Meissner
Publisher:        WaterBrook Press
Date:               2011
Genre:             Women’s Fiction

Isn't the cover fabulous??

I have found a new favorite author; her name is Susan Meissner. I am absolutely enchanted.

Her newest novel, A Sound among the Trees, examines the lives, loves, and losses of several generations of women living in a Civil War era mansion in Virginia. When Marielle Bishop marries and moves across the country to be wife to Carson and step-mother to his children, she moves into Holly Oak, the family home of her husband’s deceased wife. In fact, the deceased wife’s grandmother, Adelaide, still lives in and presides over the house. It isn’t long, though, and Marielle begins to hear the rumors: rumors that Adelaide’s great-grandmother, Susannah Page, haunts the mansion. Adelaide believes that the house itself is stuck in its’ tragic past, bringing misery and trouble to the women who inhabit it, and the connection to the past is further heightened by Adelaide’s past-time of sewing Confederate Army uniforms for re-enactments.

The emotions of this story swept over me, increasingly so with each page I turned. Adelaide, the ninety-year-old grandmother, is steeped in a wistfulness that is almost palpable, like one big sigh of regret. She lives half her life in memories, and that resonates with me. Meissner reminds me that life flits by like a dandelion puff on the breeze and today’s moment with my children or my husband will be tomorrow’s memory.

This wistfulness is further enhanced by Meissner’s personification of her setting: the mansion named Holly Oak. Adelaide remembers reading letters that her great-grandmother Susannah had written to a cousin during the Civil War, letters that could perhaps explain the grudge the house seems to have against its’ female inhabitants, but the letters are now lost. Or are they? Right in the middle of the novel, the spot that too often feels like the doldrums, it is revealed that the letters were not lost but hidden, and the reader is ushered back 150 years to the Civil War world of a sixteen-year-old girl. It is an absolutely brilliant plot tactic. In the end, with a stunning realization by Marielle and Adelaide, Meissner turns that wistfulness around and the sigh of regret transforms into a sigh of relief with a smiling ending.

I received this e-book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review, but I liked it so much I bought the paper version for myself.

P.S. Susan Meissner has a terrific website and blog.

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