Monday, February 2, 2015

Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner - Review

Secrets of a Charmed Life
by Susan Meissner
Expected publication: February 3, 2015 by Penguin/NAL

The author of A Fall of Marigolds journeys from the present day to World War II England, as two sisters are separated by the chaos of wartime ...

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, one million 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…

My review:  
Isabel McFarland has never agreed to an interview about her experience living through the evacuation of children from London and the bombing that followed, but now she has agreed to an interview with Kendra. Isabel is ready to reveal she is not who everyone thinks she is and wants to tell the story of two sisters, Emmy and Julia, who became separated when the bombing began. Emmy blames herself and does everything she can to find her sister, but she lives for a long time not knowing what really happened to her.

I can't tell you much about Secrets of a Charmed Life for fear of giving too many spoilers, but I absolutely loved this book. Susan Meissner has a thoroughly engaging writing style, surprising details were revealed at just the right moments to keep you interested, and I was completely hooked from beginning to end. This is a story that really makes you think about life, family, and the concepts of guilt and blame. It is also a story about how people cope with life-changing situations beyond their control, and it makes you consider how small decisions on your part or by someone else can make such a difference in ways you don't realize.

I wish I could say more, but the impact of this book is much better if you don't have spoilers before you read. I don't think you will regret reading this. It is a powerful, emotional story of family, life and history. Susan Meissner is now one of my favorite authors, and I recommend Secrets of a Charmed Life wholeheartedly. 

I won a copy of this book. I was not required to write a review.

About the author:
Susan Meissner was born in San Diego, California, the second of three. She spent her childhood in just two houses.

Her first writings are a laughable collection of oddly worded poems and predictable stories she wrote when she was eight.

She attended Point Loma College in San Diego, and married her husband, Bob, who is now an associate pastor and a chaplain in the Air Force Reserves, in 1980. When she is not working on a new novel, she is directing the small groups ministries at The Church at Rancho Bernardo. She also enjoy teaching workshops on writing and dream-following, spending time with my family, music, reading great books, and traveling.

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