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White Picket Fences: A Novel Paperback – October 6, 2009

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: WaterBrook Press; Original edition (October 6, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400074576
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400074570
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (79 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #144,697 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Meissner's The Shape of Mercy was a PW best book for 2008, but her newest doesn't measure up. The Janvier family takes into their Southern California home the abruptly homeless Tally Bachmann, 16-year-old daughter of Bart Bachmann, Amanda Janvier's ne'er-do-well brother, who has gone to Poland to unearth a family mystery. The Janviers are to be understood as an ideal family who slowly come to confront urgent and threatening secrets in their past; problem is, several family members—the emotionally detached dad in the woodshop, for one—are as stereotyped as the titular symbol of idealized family values. Tally and 17-year-old Chase Janvier, around whom much of the story revolves, are nicely realized; Meissner has a sure touch with their characterizations. But plotting problems undermine intended emotional impact: the Polish connection is not credibly presented, a Holocaust connection is likewise hard to believe, and some of the plot resolution is more mechanical than organic. Meissner can write, but here she has overreached. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


“I loved looking into the heart of this family whose life looks perfect only from the outside. Meissner’s characters are so real, so haunted by the past, and so in denial for reasons of self-defense that you will be swept away till the final page. You’ll find it hard not to wonder, as one of the elderly characters did, if remembering is a choice that takes courage.”
–Julie L. Cannon, author of Truleove & Homegrown Tomatoes, ’Mater Biscuit, Those Pearly Gates, and The Romance Readers’ Book Club

“To step into a Susan Meissner book is to be blessed by a craftsman’s tender touch. In Susan’s hands, we move carefully into compassion, entering the ordinary lives of people who could be our neighbors, ourselves, each doing what we can to staunch the pain of memory. This book opens a gate in the white picket fences of our lives, helping transform memory and secrets so we are no longer held hostage by the past. Beautifully written by a keen observer of the human condition, White Picket Fence will keep you reading into the night and make you sigh with satisfaction at the end.”
–Jane Kirkpatrick, award-winning author of A Flickering Light

“This compelling story with its wonderful cast of characters offers hope to all of us who live less than perfect lives behind our white picket fences. Susan Meissner skillfully weaves together parallel storylines to show how healing can come when we risk sharing our secret pain with others.”
–Lynn Austin, author of Until We Reach Home

“Susan Meissner just keeps getting better and better. This novel is a deftly woven portrayal of family and friendships, of secrets and sacrifices, one that tiptoes beyond the white picket fence to look at what happens when people stop talking to each other.”
–Siri Mitchell, author of Love’s Pursuit

“Poetic prose and a ‘can’t-put-it down’ plot make White Picket Fences a great read. A thought-provoking look into a dysfunctional family that thinks it is functional and how an outsider can serve as a means of grace. Caution: be ready to lose a few hours of sleep!”
–Elizabeth Musser, missionary and author of The Swan House, The Dwelling Place, Searching for Eternity and Words Unspoken

White Picket Fences is a beautiful, yet haunting portrayal of what lies beneath a seemingly perfect suburban family. Susan Meissner’s powerful storytelling woos the reader into the lives of flawed, needy characters, making us ache with them, rejoice with them. Meissner deftly weaves old and new, producing a seamless, satisfying and enduring story.”
–Mary DeMuth, author of Daisy Chain and A Slow Burn

“Writing as incandescent as pure flame. Susan Meissner delivers again with a family story that wraps you up and stays with you long after the last page.”
–James Scott Bell, bestselling author of Deceived and Try Fear

Customer Reviews

The characters were very... well, to me, loveable.
Amazon Customer
I love how Meissner takes real life history and weaves it with a beautiful fictional story.
Lori Kasbeer
It's plot will keep you turning pages until the very end.
Shannah Hogue

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Connie Y. Mishali on October 27, 2009
Format: Paperback
Susan Meissner's new book White Picket Fences is one of the better books I've read in a long time. I find myself thinking about it over a week after I finished it . . . and when I read the last chapter, it actually brought me to tears. Not the one drop falling down your cheek kind of cry, but a "good cry" that lasted several minutes.

White Picket Fences is the story of a seemingly perfect family . . . which is anything but perfect. The members of this family have to learn to trust each other with their secrets, their feelings, their fears. The secondary theme of this book is the Holocaust -- the teens of this book interview two survivors of a concentration camp as a school project and unearth yet another family secret.

Since this is the second Meissner book I've read and really enjoyed, I even bookmarked her web page to my "favorite authors" page. I strongly recommend this book.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Harriet Klausner #1 HALL OF FAME on October 11, 2009
Format: Paperback
In Southern California, when her brother Bart Bachman runs off to Poland on some allegedly family roots drama, he leaves his motherless sixteen year old daughter Tally behind and homeless. Knowing her sibling's chronic irresponsibility, with her husband's support Amanda Janvier offers to give her teenage niece a roof. Amanda hopes she and her spouse can provide Tally positive role models.

Tally and her seventeen year old cousin Chase become friends while interviewing Holocaust victims on a class project. The teens soon uncover secrets re their extended family, but especially Chase, who suffers from nightmares involving a fire. As they dig deeper into the family mystery, the two cousins have unraveled the past that the older generation prefers left concealed back in the old country.

Purposely the family is hyperbolic characterizations of who are considered the "norm" for people residing inside the WHITE PICKET FENCES. Thus, the two teens bring freshness to this entertaining contemporary fiction when they nuke the so called paragon family model with their vigor for the truth. Although the forced ties to Europe and the Holocaust seem a stretch compounded exponentially by one another, Susan Meissner still provides her audience with a thought provoking look at families, past and present.

Harriet Klausner
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Goofy Grammy on October 12, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I really did not know what this book was about but it surprised me and delighted me. The beginning was about a modern day family. As the story goes on it digs much deeper than that. I loved this book but don't want to ruin the surprise. It touch me on a number of levels. The perfect family may not be so normal after all! Great ending! Kept me wanti ng to read more!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Lori H. Poppinga on March 1, 2011
Format: Paperback
Tally lives a carefree life on the road with her father until one day he insists he has to travel to Europe without her. He leaves her in the care of her grandmother without a forwarding address or phone number. When her grandma dies, the state contacts her aunt, Amanda Janvier, a woman Tally has only met once and who lives a life so different from Tally's, Tally wonders what they could possibly share besides some similar DNA.

Amanda Janvier's life is fine. Everything's fine or so she and her family want everyone to believe. If you just smile and don't talk about the issues, everything will be fine, right? Amanda soon finds out with the arrival of her niece that everything in her family isn't fine, but after years of avoiding the real issues, she doesn't know where to start unraveling the blanket of deception they've all hidden behind for years.

Tally and Chase, Amanda's son, work on a school project that not only directly relates to Tally's dad, but also to Chase's past. In learning about the Warsaw Ghetto, will Tally and Chase be able to resolve issues from their own past? Will their digging affect Amanda and the rest of the family?

In White Picket Fences, Susan Meissner creates a the White Picket Fence world where life is beautiful and the family who lives inside the fence has it all: two kids, good jobs, a secure future...the American dream. Meissners message hits home in a time where many of us are very rushed and do not stop to evaluate how our lives really are; mostly we think they are just fine. When we take time to slow down and look at what is really going on beneath the surface, we see things aren't "fine," they never were "fine," and we don't know how to make them "fine." Which I would like to think that they will never be "fine" in this world.
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Format: Paperback
The disappearance of Bart Bachmann necessitates the placement of his daughter, Tally, into the home of her aunt and uncle, Amanda and Neil Janvier, and cousins Chase and Delcey. Though Tally's father loves her, his own life is a kind of fleeting and shallow existence, and the Janviers represent the exact opposite of everything that is her father. They seem to live life under the ideas of responsibility, constancy and, above all, a focus on family. But Tally soon discovers that appearances can be deceiving when their secrets threaten to destroy everything that really matters to them.

Whether Tally's abandonment is a temporary or permanent situation is unclear as Bart left without much explanation; he simply told his daughter he was leaving her with her grandmother for a while and without any phone number or forwarding address where he could be reached. He didn't even give her a firm location of where he was going --- just somewhere in Poland --- and asked her not to contact anyone from where they used to live. The whole situation brings up uncomfortable questions about what exactly Bart has gotten himself into.

The sudden death of Tally's grandmother leaves the teenager in a vulnerable situation, but luckily she has relatives who can take her in. She's not so sure about what the Janviers think of her, however, as they're quietly critical of her father and seem to look at her like she's a potential troublemaker. Her multiple piercings and tattoo are things that they definitely frown upon, but they also seem to question the way in which she's been raised. Tally has been warned that the arrangement could become permanent by the state, depending on whether or not Bart bothers to contact her soon.
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More About the Author

I cannot remember a time when I wasn't driven to write. I attribute this passion to a creative God and to parents who love books and more particularly to a dad who majored in English and passed on a passion for writing.

I was born in 1961 in San Diego, California, and am the second of three daughters. I spent my very average childhood in just two houses. I attended Point Loma College in San Diego, majoring in education, but I would have been smarter to major in English with a concentration in writing. The advice I give now to anyone wondering what to major in is follow your heart and choose a vocation you are already in love with.

I'm happy and humbled to say that I've had 17 books published in the last dozen years, including The Shape of Mercy, which was named one of the 100 Best Books in 2008 by Publishers Weekly, and the ECPA's Fiction Book of the Year, a Carol Award winner, and a RITA finalist. I teach at writers' conferences from time to time and I've a background in community journalism.

I'm also a pastor's wife and a mother of four young adults. When I'm not at work on a new novel, I write small group curriculum for my San Diego church. Visit me at my website: http//:susanmeissner.com on Twitter at @SusanMeissner or at www.facebook.com/susan.meissner

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