Synopses & Reviews
When her black sheep brother disappears, Amanda Janvier eagerly takes in her sixteen year-old niece Tally. The girl is practically an orphan: motherless, and living with a father who raises Tally wherever he lands- in a Buick, a pizza joint, a horse farm-and regularly takes off on wild schemes. Amanda envisions that she, her husband Neil, and their two teenagers can offer the girl stability and a shot at a “normal” life, even though their own storybook lives are about to crumble.
Seventeen-year-old Chase Janvier hasnt seen his cousin in years, and other than a vague curiosity about her strange life, he doesnt 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 wont make them go away.
Will Tallys 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?
About the Author
Susan Meissner cannot remember a time when she wasnt driven to put her thoughts down on paper. Her novels include The Shape of Mercy, a Christian Book Award finalist, and Blue Heart Blessed. Susan and her husband, a pastor and a chaplain in the Air Force Reserves, make their home in Southern California. They are the parents of four grown children.
Reading Group Guide
1. Amanda thinks she has the perfect home while Tally's life lacks stability and safety. How do you see this actually being reversed in the story?
2. Why do you think Chase named the fire Ghost? Why might he have felt the need to give the fire a name?
3. What is the significance of Neil's occupation as a financial planner? What do you think that career choice says about him?
4. Do you have any sympathy for Neil's character and the choices he made? Why or why not?
5. What do you think of Bart's parenting skills? Is he a bad father? How do his parenting skills compare with Amanda and Neil's?
6. Why do you think Chase dreamed of Eliasz coming to him in the fire?
7. What, if anything, do Josef and Eliasz represent to Chase? To Tally?
8. Do you envision Bart eventually finding the jewelry and gold? How do you see the imagined outcome affecting him?
9. Josef says in the last chapter, "[This] is what all survivors must decide. We have to decide how much we will choose to remember and how much courage we are willing to expend to do so." What do you think he means? Do you agree?
10. Did Neil and Amanda make a mistake by never mentioning the fire again after Chase stopped talking about it?
11. Why do you think Chase didn't care for woodworking and instead turned to film-making? Are these two pursuits similar in any way?
12. Are some secrets good to keep? How do we know which ones are meant to be kept?