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Timestamp: 2010-01-04 02:42:44 UTC
Congrats to A Stone Gatherer! Email me your address, Kim, and I'll send it on its way! Thanks to everyone for entering - more giveways coming soon!
I interviewed Susan at the Christian Book Expo and posted part of that interview here, but saved her discussion of White Picket Fences for this post. Here's what she said:
It's about a contemporary family with the iconic perfect life from the outside – the white picket fence life: good jobs, parents who love each other, a boy, a girl, a dog, a minivan. They’ve even convinced themselves everything is fine. But one of the kids has some powerful and painful memories and no one wants to talk about it because to do so would be to admit they don’t have the perfect life.
For the father especially, he's created this perfect world for his family and doesn't want to consider that maybe there are some skeletons in the closet that need to come out, because then that would shatter this illusion that he's been able to create a perfect home for his family that he loves.
Is the father responsible for the bad memories?
No, it's nothing that he did. It's what he's not doing now that's making it worse. So I spend 400 pages getting these people to deal with it, because it's going to destroy them if they don't.
So how do you come up with your ideas for your books?
I kinda have created a brand for myself with taking a contemporary setting and then bringing in a historical thread. And sometimes the historical thread is very obvious, and sometimes it's subtle. With White Picket Fences there are two secondary characters that interact with my primary characters, and these two secondary characters are survivors of the Warsaw ghetto - a Catholic and a Jew - and they are now living in a nursing home together. My main characters are teenagers and they go visit them for a school project. And it's through the recollection of living out the Warsaw ghetto and being sent to Treblinka, which is a Polish concentration camp where almost a million Jews were slaughtered. So as they are relaying their experience for this Social Studies project, it's revealing to the two teenagers what happens when you bury ugliness because you don't want to look at it. And that's what this teenage boy's family is doing. They want to bury the ugliness and pretend it never happened, because if you look at it then you have to deal with it.
ABOUT THE BOOK:
Amanda Janvier’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.
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.
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?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Susan 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.
Like her other books, this is a compelling story. I was a little nervous going into it because I wasn't sure what that "bad memory" involved. (I was a little concerned it might have been of an abusive nature, but it was nothing like that.) The way Susan wove the historical thread into the story was interesting and provided another layer to the story; I was not familiar with the Warsaw ghetto prior to reading this book. This is a book that gives much to ponder after the last page is turned.
You can learn more about the book, read an excerpt, and purchase it here.
I have a brand-new copy of this book for one of you. Just leave a comment on this post by Sunday (1/3/10) at 6:00 pm CST and I will draw a winner. Be sure to include an email address if you don't have a blog. US and Canada residents only, please.
Many thanks - and apologies for my delinquent posting! - to Waterbrook Multnomah for providing copies for my review and to give away.
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