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A Sound Among Trees by Susan Meissner
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A Sound Among Trees (2011)

by Susan Meissner

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Showing 1-5 of 38 (next | show all)
I'm a big fan of Susan Meissner's contemporary fiction (not so much of a fan of her historical fiction) but I found it very, very hard to stay connected with this story. The main problem is that the focus of the novel is the house, not the characters living in the house during the present day (although they had interesting back-stories that would have been fun to explore more deeply) and the possibility that there were ghosts or curses attached to it. I have to give Meissner credit for attacking such a controversial topic in a novel geared for the Christian market but I felt that she didn't make it "real" enough to capture our attention (and again, that may have been deliberate to be able to market this book to Christians). I finally gave up about half-way through and wished that I was reading more about family dysfunction and whether or not this second marriage could survive, house or not house.

It probably didn't help that I read "The Lost Quilter" immediately before reading this book and Jennifer Chiaverni's emotional writing about the Civil War and slavery in general was much more powerful and real to me. Made "The Sound Among the Trees" seem trite and shallow. ( )
  olegalCA | Dec 9, 2014 |
I'm a big fan of Susan Meissner's contemporary fiction (not so much of a fan of her historical fiction) but I found it very, very hard to stay connected with this story. The main problem is that the focus of the novel is the house, not the characters living in the house during the present day (although they had interesting back-stories that would have been fun to explore more deeply) and the possibility that there were ghosts or curses attached to it. I have to give Meissner credit for attacking such a controversial topic in a novel geared for the Christian market but I felt that she didn't make it "real" enough to capture our attention (and again, that may have been deliberate to be able to market this book to Christians). I finally gave up about half-way through and wished that I was reading more about family dysfunction and whether or not this second marriage could survive, house or not house.

It probably didn't help that I read "The Lost Quilter" immediately before reading this book and Jennifer Chiaverni's emotional writing about the Civil War and slavery in general was much more powerful and real to me. Made "The Sound Among the Trees" seem trite and shallow. ( )
  olegalCA | Dec 9, 2014 |
I thought I was going to love this book. Ostensibly it is everything I should want in a book--past/present interaction and a spooky old house especially. It's certainly well-written. For some reason, it didn't connect for me. ( )
  brandyhei | Jan 14, 2014 |
One of my favorite books to read are historical fiction especially if it has a bit of mystery and suspense. I have to say, A Sound Among the Trees was fantastic!

Ms. Meissner has a unique way of weaving the past into the present that makes her stories fascinating. Mix in some Civil War intrigue, a southern mansion that has stood the test of time and a family history of possible treason and this book was definitely my cup of tea! :) ( )
  mrsrenee | Apr 10, 2013 |
When Marielle marries a widower with two young children, her new family comes with an odd living arrangement: they will live with the grandmother of her husband’s ex-wife in the ancestral plantation house, Holly Oak. Adelaide, the family matriarch, is kind but Marielle can never quite feel at home – a situation exacerbated by the ghost stories her neighbors tell about Holly Oak. According to one old gossip and her “psychic” friend, the ghost of Susannah Page haunts the mansion. Susannah is one of Adelaide’s ancestors, and is widely believed to have been a Northern spy during the Civil War. As Marielle explores the house, she uncovers a cache of journals that reveal that her husband’s former wife was not as happy as she appeared, but frequently suffered from depression and extreme sadness. Could she be the ghost that haunts Holly Oak? Or is Adelaide correct when she insists that it is the house itself that is stuck in time and unable to move forward? Perhaps a chest containing a series of unsent letters penned by Susannah Page will finally reveal the truth…

When I first picked this book up, I thought it was a historical novel that would alternate chapters with a contemporary setting. It’s a common enough device in historical fiction, after all. But over two hundred pages pass before we get to the epistolary historic narrative, which was well over half the book. I mean, the contemporary characters – Marielle, her husband Carson, and old Adelaide – talk about the historic events that took place in the house, but the setting is purely 21st century, even if it takes place in a historic mansion. Certainly, the modern family situation is unusual, and has the potential to be quite entertaining, but the characters are shallowly drawn and constantly focused on uncovering the history of the house. There’s a bit of denial in that; they don’t want to think about the oddity of living strangers living together, so they focus on this bit of history instead. But the delay of the historical narrative made it seem odd and almost intrusive when it finally showed up.

I’ve always had a personal dislike of epistolary novels, for a simple reason: I’ve never seen a real letter that replicated whole conversations and momentary emotions the way that letters in novels do, and when the letters become the novel it just feels a little too contrived for my tastes. Although Susanna’s life during the Civil War is entertaining enough, the letter format holds the reader at a distance from the action, and ultimately the story feels shallow, its narrator detached from the daily reality of her own life.

What makes this novel work, in spite of its flaws, is Meissner’s writing style. She has a very fluid pen that makes easy, believable conversations. Peppered throughout the book are single, sparkling moments – some sentences or careful phrasing of words that do a wonderful job of conjuring up a vision. There were similar such moments in The Girl in the Glass, another book of Meissner’s that I reviewed last year. So even though the characterization lacked depth and the second half of the book tends to drag, I enjoyed the story and would read it again. ( )
  makaiju | Jan 13, 2013 |
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» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Susan Meissnerprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Denaker, SusanNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
There's a sound among the forest trees, away, boys,
Away to the battlefield, hurrah!
Hear its thunders from the mountains, no delay, boys.
We'll gird on the sword and shield.
Shall we falter on the threshold of our fame, boys?
-Fanny Crosby, 1861
Dedication
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The bride stood in a circle of Virginia sunlight, her narrow heels clicking on Holly Oak's patio stones as she greeted strangers in the receiving line.
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Book description
As a young bride, Susannah Page was rumored to be a Civil War spy for the North, a traitor to her Virginian roots. Her great-granddaughter Adelaide, the current matriarch of Holly Oak, doesn’t believe that Susannah’s ghost haunts the antebellum mansion looking for a pardon, but rather the house itself bears a grudge toward its tragic past.

When Marielle Bishop marries into the family and is transplanted from the arid west to her husband’s home, it isn’t long before she is led to believe that the house she just settled into brings misfortune to the women who live there.

With Adelaide’s richly peppered superstitions and deep family roots at stake, Marielle must sort out the truth about Susannah Page and Holly Oak— and make peace with the sacrifices she has made for love.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0307458857, Paperback)

A house shrouded in time.
A line of women with a heritage of loss.

As a young bride, Susannah Page was rumored to be a Civil War spy for the North, a traitor to her Virginian roots. Her great-granddaughter Adelaide, the current matriarch of Holly Oak, doesn’t believe that Susannah’s ghost haunts the antebellum mansion looking for a pardon, but rather the house itself bears a grudge toward its tragic past.

When Marielle Bishop marries into the family and is transplanted from the arid west to her husband’s home, it isn’t long before she is led to believe that the house she just settled into brings misfortune to the women who live there.

With Adelaide’s richly peppered superstitions and deep family roots at stake, Marielle must sort out the truth about Susannah Page and Holly Oak— and make peace with the sacrifices she has made for love.    

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:42:21 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Susannah was rumored to be a Civil War spy for the North, a traitor to her Virginian roots. Her great-granddaughter Adelaide, the current matriarch of Holly Oak, doesn't believe that Susannah's ghost haunts the antebellum mansion looking for a pardon, but rather the house itself bears a grudge toward its tragic past. When Marielle marries into the family, she must sort out the truth about Susannah and Holly Oak-- and make peace with the sacrifices she has made for love.… (more)

» see all 2 descriptions

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