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White Picket Fences

A Novel

Susan Meissner

About White Picket Fences

When 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 envisions that she, her husband Neil, and their two teenagers can offer the girl stability and a shot at a “normal” life, even though their own storybook lives are about to crumble.

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?


“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

About Susan Meissner

Susan Meissner is a former managing editor of a weekly newspaper and an award-winning columnist. She is the award-winning author of A Bridge Across the Ocean, Secrets of a Charmed Life, A Fall of Marigolds, and Stars Over Sunset Boulevard, among other novels.

Product Details

368 pages | Published by WaterBrook

On Sale Date: Oct 6, 2009

Trim Size: 5-3/16 x 8

Carton Quantity: 24

Sneak Peek

From the acclaimed author of The Shape of Mercy comes a new novel delving into the heart of a family, and navigating the barriers that both contain them and keep them apart. Download/Read Chapters One and Two

By Erin Mifflin

Amanda Janvier appears to be living a very good, stable life. She loves her work as a teacher, is married to a generous craftsman, and has two teenage children. But secrets lurk in the Janvier home. Does a secret ever do anyone any good? Are they always to best kept locked away from others? The Janviers take in their sixteen-year-old niece Tally while Amanda's brother is out of reach on a fortune hunt in Europe. Tally and her cousin Chase...

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By Chris Jager

Dear Readers, I was so excited to hear Susan Messiner was releasing another book this year. I so loved The Shape of Mercy, in fact it was my pick as favorite book for '08. White Picket Fences is a very thought provoking book. I really liked it and yet struggled with some of the characters. It was hard to warm up to the main character and I am sure Susan wrote them that way. Which does make for a good and interesting read. Tally needs a...

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By Richard Jones

Does your family have their own little secrets? The Janviers certainly do. In White Picket Fences, author Susan Meissner addresses what becomes of a family that tries to appear picture perfect while keeping their secrets buried. Tally Janvier moves in with her aunt and uncle when social services cannot locate her father. He is somewhere in Europe looking for something and no one is saying what. Tally and her cousin, Chase become...

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By Pamela Morrisson

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...

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By Jennifer DeFoy

White Picket Fences had quite a bit going on in it. Each part of the story was connected, and it was done very well. The story didn't seem to lose anything, and the connections didn't feel convenient. This book was very well thought out, and was executed very well. I have to applaud Meissner for taking all these seemingly unrelated topics and intertwining them into a very good story. There were parts when the story dragged a little, but...

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