February 2015/416 pages/$15.00
She stood at a crossroads, half-aware that her choice would send her down a path from which there could be no turning back. But instead of two choices, she saw only one—because it was all she really wanted to see…
Current day, Oxford, England. Young American scholar Kendra Van Zant, eager to pursue her vision of a perfect life, interviews Isabel McFarland just when the elderly woman is ready to give up secrets about the war that she has kept for decades…beginning with who she really is. What Kendra receives from Isabel is both a gift and a burden–one that will test her convictions and her heart.
1940s, England. As Hitler wages an unprecedented war against London’s civilian population, hundreds of thousands of children are evacuated to foster homes in the rural countryside. But even as fifteen-year-old Emmy Downtree and her much younger sister Julia find refuge in a charming Cotswold cottage, Emmy’s burning ambition to return to the city and apprentice with a fashion designer pits her against Julia’s profound need for her sister’s presence. Acting at cross purposes just as the Luftwaffe rains down its terrible destruction, the sisters are cruelly separated, and their lives are transformed…
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
She was born and raised in San Diego, California, but spent some of her adult life living in Minnesota as well as in England and Germany, before returning home to southern California in 2007.
Susan attended Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego. Prior to her writing career, she was a managing editor of a weekly newspaper in southwestern Minnesota.
She enjoys teaching workshops on writing, spending time with her family, reading great books and traveling. Susan makes her home in the San Diego area with her husband Bob, a pastor and chaplain in the Air Force Reserves. They are the parents of four adult children.
Susan Meissner, already one of my favorite authors, has truly outdone herself with this novel. Written in her trademark style weaving a contemporary story with a historical thread, Secrets of a Charmed Life captivated my mind and my heart from the opening pages, and I simultaneously devoured and soaked it in. Elegantly polished prose brings each page to life, and I felt as if I were sitting in the room listening to Isabel McFarland tell her story. . .or with Emmy and Julia as they are evacuated from their home to Cotswold. I had not previously read much about the evacuations that took place during the war, and while the idea of children being sent away for their safety was distressing but understandable, the sisters' subsequent separation absolutely broke my heart. Meissner seamlessly and naturally transitions between the two time periods. While the bulk of the story occurs in the historic era, intermittent insertions of the interview moments between Isabel and Kendra enhance and help direct the story. Meissner effectively employs flashbacks, journals, letters, and other means to give voice to multiple individuals in the story, providing depth and direction. And the ending? Perfection! After I finished it, I gave it to my nineteen-year-old daughter (WWII is her favorite genre) and she couldn't put it down, either. If you read but one book this year, let it be this one. You will not regret it.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a copy of this book free from Susan Meissner and Penguin/NAL Press as part of a blog tour. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed 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.”
Coming this week: A Q&A with Susan Meissner about the book!
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