Book Review: Secrets of A Charmed Life

17 Jul

UnknownShe 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, hundreds of thousands of 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 . . . .

SusanMeissner2-300x199Susan 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 novel, Susan writes small group curriculum for her San Diego church. Visit Susan at her website: on Twitter at @SusanMeissner or at


My Impressions:

I have long enjoyed Susan Meissner’s novels, but have not read one of her books in a while. My church book club, Page Turners, chose her latest book, Secrets of A Charmed Life, for our July discussion. Informal conversations indicate this is another winner for our group. Have you read this book? What did you think?

While there are two contemporary/historical plot lines in Secrets of A Charmed Life, it is the historical story of Emmy/Isabel and her sister Julia that takes center stage. With the backdrop of the London Blitz, Meissner manages to tell a tale full of emotion — grief, fear, and unworthiness. But the characters grow throughout their journeys and learn that forgiveness for themselves and others covers the choices they have made.

There is not an overt faith message that one can point to in Secrets of A Charmed Life. God is mentioned, but for much of the novel the characters don’t really see Him as anything as distant — a sentiment held by many in today’s world. Rather, this novel points to the impact our choices have and the hand of the Sustainer that takes our mistakes and turns them into good. At one point both Emmy and her sister Julia realize that although their actions do have a role to play in what will happen, events are shaped by choices of all the people involved, including enemy leaders and pilots.

Strong characters, both major and minor, make this story, but the setting is well-constructed also. England during WWII, both besieged London and the bucolic English countryside, comes to life. The reader experiences a nation that joins together to protect both its children and its way of life. If you like WWII novels, you will love Secrets of A Charmed Life.

I expect a lot of great discussion with this novel, making it a good bet for any book club. Secrets of A Charmed Life is a highly recommended read!

Highly Recommended.

Great for Book Clubs.

Audience: adults.

To purchase this book, click HERE.

(I purchased this book from Amazon. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

One Response to “Book Review: Secrets of A Charmed Life”


  1. Tales from The TBR Pile — White Picket Fences | BY THE BOOK - September 10, 2015

    […] I love Meissner’s writing, and my book clubs have read several of her novels, most lately Secrets of A Charmed Life. But I haven’t read this one yet. Have you? Why should I move this one up to the top of the […]

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