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  • Writer's pictureJudith D Collins

Secrets of a Charmed Life


Publisher: Christian Audio

Publication Date: 4/16/2015

Format: Audio

My Rating: 4.5 Stars

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

Master storyteller, Susan Meissner delivers a layered, piece of art with SECRETS OF A CHARMED LIFE, from the present day to World War II England, a story of two sisters, separated by time and of war. From the stunning front cover, you are drawn to this era and with an engaging, and almost mesmerizing prose, Meissner captures the essence of time with a courageous woman who has no choice but to give up her secrets– it is time. Oxford, England, a young American scholar Kendra Van Zant interviews Isabel McFarland, at the age of ninety three, she is ready to come forward about the war, a secret she has kept for decades. As readers revisit the dark time in history, 1940s in England, a turbulent time as Hitler wages war against London while one million children are evacuated to foster homes. While 15 yr. old Emmy and her younger sister, 7 yr. old Julia find refuge in a charming Cotswold cottage, Emmy wants to return to the city and apprentice with a fashion designer. The sisters are cruelly separated. Emmy blames herself and does everything to find her sister, but she does not know for such a long time. The Blitz changed so many lives, with guilt and blame and, the what ifs. With an ongoing mystery will not give anything away, the story keeps you intrigued, of how the pieces will come together. Rich in vivid settings and descriptions, we hear from difference voices, letters, and diaries, while readers experience raw emotion, mystery, passion, love, choices, and hardship. It was heartbreaking to hear the devastating effects of lives and families torn apart. There is a remarkable take away message of learning to forgive, others and yourself in order to let go of the past and have a future, a charmed life.

A story about sisters, but also about the bond between mother and child, and ultimately the resilience of love. Highly recommend, this beautiful mix of historic and contemporary fiction - of love, loss and sacrifices, and characters you will not soon forget. I have only read one other book by Meissner, A Fall of Marigolds; however, look forward to reading more. I listened to the audio version narrated by Alana Kerr, delivering a pleasant performance. Fans of Sarah Jio and historic fiction will appreciate being transported to another time- what an experience of survival!

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About the Author

Susan Meissner is a multi-published author, speaker and writing workshop leader with a background in community journalism. Her novels include A Fall of Marigolds, named to Booklist’s Top Ten Women’s Fiction titles for 2014, and The Shape of Mercy, named by Publishers Weekly as one of the 100 Best Novels of 2008. A California native, she attended Point Loma Nazarene University.

Susan is a pastor’s wife and a mother of four young adults. When she’s not working on a novl, Susan writes small group curriculum for her San Diego church. Visit Susan at her Website or Twitter at @SusanMeissner






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