Blogging for Books

Book Review: A Sound Among the Trees

I still participate occasionally in the Blogging for Books program through WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing, and recently read one of Susan Meissner’s most recent novels, A Sound Among the Trees.  For those of you that check in on my blog regularly, her name may sound familiar to you, as I have reviewed two other novels written by her as well due to my love of historical fiction.

True to her form, Susan Meissner once again explores the world of historical fiction in A Sound Among the Trees.  The reader is left exploring two worlds throughout the novel, vacillating between the familiar modern-day and the remarkable years of the Civil War.  The story surrounds generations of women that had lived within the halls of Holly Oak, a  beautiful mansion in Virginia that survived the Civil War and had the cannonball embedded in the north wall of the house to prove it.

Newly married to widower Carson, Marielle has just moved into Holly Oak, the chidlhood home of Carson’s first wife and the current home of his mother-in-law, Adelaide.  Marielle agrees to live at Holly Oak with Carson and his two children, and Adelaide, as Carson feels it would be best for everyone.  It is not long before Marielle begins to hear the rumors that Holly Oak is haunted by Adelaide’s great-grandmother, Susannah Page, who was speculated to have been a spy for the Union during the war.

The story unfolds and the reader is taken on a journey through the lives of the women of Holly Oak and the mysteries the antebellum mansion may or may not hold.  Is the beautiful old house haunted?  Was Susannah Page a spy and are all of the women of Holly Oak cursed in some way?  Does Adelaide herself believe that Holly Oak is haunted, and if so, why does she stay?  In addition to the mystery these questions bring forth, the story also allows the reader to become well acquainted with Marielle as she struggles to find her place in an old home and a new family.

While this book cannot be classified as my favorite Meissner novel, I did enjoy reading it and had to get to the end to find the truth of the story.  Character development is solid and engaging, and the beauty and horror found in the Civil War is engrossing.  The story does move a bit slowly, but overall, I believe it is worth a read.

Disclosure:I received a copy of this book from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group in exchange for my review. No other compensation was received. All opinions are 100% my own and may differ from others.

Blogging for Books, Culture, Faith

Book Review: The Shape of Mercy

After reading and reviewing Susan Meissner’s Lady in Waiting, I couldn’t help but choose another of her books from the Blogging for Books program this last go round.

The Shape of Mercy didn’t disappoint.  Like Lady in Waiting, two story lines converge and you are drawn into the lives of a contemporary figure and a historical figure.  In The Shape of Mercy, the reader meets Lauren Durough, a wealthy young college student who is subconsciously determined to show the world that she can make it without the help of her family’s fortune.  She is employed by an elderly retired librarian, Abigail Boyles, to transcribe a centuries old diary of one of Abigail’s ancestors, Mercy Hayworth.  Mercy Hayworth was a victim of the Salem witch trials.

This novel drew me in, partly due to my interest in the horrific and heartbreaking part of our history that were the Salem witch trials and partly due to the incredible way that Ms. Meissner tells a story.  The characters are not unlike your next-door neighbor or eccentric relation, in that they feel tangible, as if you could cross paths with them on a university campus or in a cavernous library.  The historical fact interwoven throughout led me to really think about what the women (and men) who were persecuted as witches must have experienced.  The main character’s own revelations about her attitude, perceptions of wealth, and prejudice towards others is powerful.  The elements of sacrifice, mercy, and love are displayed beautifully.  Susan Meissner has demonstrated an ability to both entertain and subtly draw the reader out of themselves, urging them to look outward and upward.  The theme of faith is subtle yet powerful.

“I used to think mercy meant showing kindness to someone who didn’t deserve it, as if only the recipient defined the act. The girl in between has learned that mercy is defined by the giver.  Our flaws are obvious, yet we are loved and able to love, if we choose, because there is that bit of the divine still smoldering in us.” (p. 305)

I can’t recommend this book enough.

*I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.