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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?
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page 30.
- Review Date: 2009-08-03
- Reviewer: Staff
Meissner's The Shape of Mercy was a PW best book for 2008, but her newest doesn't measure up. The Janvier family takes into their Southern California home the abruptly homeless Tally Bachmann, 16-year-old daughter of Bart Bachmann, Amanda Janvier's ne'er-do-well brother, who has gone to Poland to unearth a family mystery. The Janviers are to be understood as an ideal family who slowly come to confront urgent and threatening secrets in their past; problem is, several family members—the emotionally detached dad in the woodshop, for one—are as stereotyped as the titular symbol of idealized family values. Tally and 17-year-old Chase Janvier, around whom much of the story revolves, are nicely realized; Meissner has a sure touch with their characterizations. But plotting problems undermine intended emotional impact: the Polish connection is not credibly presented, a Holocaust connection is likewise hard to believe, and some of the plot resolution is more mechanical than organic. Meissner can write, but here she has overreached. (Oct.)