Thursday, October 13, 2011

Review of A Sound Among the Trees by Susan Meissner

Rating: 4.5 Stars
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Synopsis from WaterBrook Multnomah: A house shrouded in time. A line of women with a heritage of loss.
As a young bride, Susannah Page was rumored to be a Civil War spy for the North, a traitor to her Virginian roots. Her great-granddaughter Adelaide, the current matriarch of Holly Oak, doesn’t believe that Susannah’s ghost haunts the antebellum mansion looking for a pardon, but rather the house itself bears a grudge toward its tragic past.

When Marielle Bishop marries into the family and is transplanted from the arid west to her husband’s home, it isn’t long before she is led to believe that the house she just settled into brings misfortune to the women who live there.

With Adelaide’s richly peppered superstitions and deep family roots at stake, Marielle must sort out the truth about Susannah Page and Holly Oak— and make peace with the sacrifices she has made for love.   

Review: A Sound Among the Trees is yet another masterfully blended tale of the past and present. Susan Meissner never fails to give her readers the best of both worlds in seamlessly integrated and fully developed plots. A Sound Among the Trees is a captivating, poignant, and occasionally haunting novel.  Meissner builds her latest story around Holly Oak, an antebellum mansion in the charming town of Fredericksburg, Virginia.  The plot begins in present day, enrapturing us with remnants of the past that reside within the home’s four walls. Lifelong Holly Oak resident, Adelaide, and her new granddaughter in-law, Marielle, are the focus of the first half of the novel.  Adelaide’s impressions of the mansion and its past have been formed over a lifetime, which has been defined by loss. Like Marielle, we view the house from a new perspective and are left to sort through the mysteries and “ghosts” that have become a tangible part of the home.

Meissner divides the first half of the novel into five parts: The Garden, The Parlor, The Studio, The Cellar, and Holly Oak.  The garden, parlor, studio, and cellar are important places in the mansion’s existence.  Their history resonates through the pages, and they are more fully brought to life when Meissner switches to the perspective of Holly Oak’s most pivotal Civil War resident and source of much speculation, Susannah Page.  Susannah’s story is told through a sequence of unguarded letters to her cousin.  I was completely engrossed in Susannah tale of love, loss, and bravery.  Meissner’s skill as a story-teller shines in the poetical narrative.  Despite the passage of more than a century, Susannah is still very much a part of Adelaide’s life and the presence of the mansion.  Her letters provide an insight into the truth of her life and her values.  As a character, she is fully developed, despite her perspective accounting for less than half of the novel.   

Adelaide offers a prime example of how years of misconceptions can cloud our view of the present and cripple our outlook on life.  She places Holly Oak in a position of power and lets it define her life.  From the first chapter, we learn that Adelaide, Marielle, and their families, have struggles to overcome.  The past defines Adelaide’s present life and the weight of her superstitions have implications in the lives of others who live at Holly Oak.  As the characters embrace the truth and let go of their fears, readers are left with a satisfying ending, full of promise.  But like real life, not everything is perfect, but Holly Oak becomes a place of peace.

As someone who loves historic homes, I loved this novel. A Sound Among the Trees sings an enchanting melody of love and truth. I highly recommend it!

A Sound Among the Trees is available for purchase at the following locations:
Christian Book DistributorsAmazonBarnes & Noble

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Multnomah/ WaterBrook Press through their book review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed above are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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