After a nomadic lifestyle with her father, Tally thinks her Aunt Amanda’s home and family are like a dream come true but soon discovers that all is not as it seems on the surface. Working together to interview survivors of  the Treblinka concentration camp for a school project, Chase and Tally become friends and confidants. While Chase grapples with the haunting dreams of a devastating fire that came close to claiming his life as a small child, his parents struggle to keep their marriage together as their secrets push them apart.

White Picket Fences is a multi-layered narrative with several simultaneous plot lines as well as a story from the past. This book is a frank look at how a home that looks perfect on the exterior can actually hide the painful secrets and troubled lives of its inhabitants. An emotionally charged essay about a family in crisis, White Picket Fences illustrates the impact past events can have on the present, the danger of keeping secrets, and the serious consequences that can result when a parent withdraws from a child. White Picket Fences is a well written book that has a few surprises and neatly ties up all the sub-plots by its end.


WhitePicketFencesWhen her black sheep brother disappears, Amanda Janvier eagerly takes in her sixteen 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’s idyllic home seems the perfect place for her niece Tally to stay while her vagabond brother is in Europe, but the white picket fence life Amanda wants to provide is a mere illusion. Amanda’s husband Neil refuses to admit their teenage son Chase, is haunted by the horrific fire he survived when he was four, and their marriage is crumbling while each looks the other way.

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?

Readers of emotional dramas that are willing to explore the lies that families tell each other for protection and comfort will love White Picket Fences. The novel is ideal for those who appreciate exploring questions like: what type of honesty do children need from their parents, or how can one move beyond a past that isn’t acknowledged or understood? Is there hope and forgiveness for the tragedies of our past and a way to abundant grace?


SusanMeissner2Susan Meissner cannot remember a time when she wasn’t driven to put her thoughts down on paper. Her novel The Shape of Mercy was a Publishers Weekly pick for best religious fiction of 2008 and a Christian Book Award finalist. Susan and her husband live in Southern California, where he is a pastor and a chaplain in the Air Force Reserves. They are the parents of four grown children.

This book was provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.

Learn more about White Picket Fences and where to buy it at the Random House website.