A Sound Among the TreesA Sound Among the Trees
Susan Meissner
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Interview, Excerpt


A house with a turbulent Civil War history becomes home to a new bride and stepmother in Susan Meissner's richly absorbing tale of a line of women stuck living in patterns of regret.

For 150 years, Holly Oak, a spacious Southern home, has stood the test of time and wills in historic Fredericksburg with Civil War scars to prove it. Marielle Bishop marries into the family with multi-generational ties to the home, leaving behind her independence and her love of Arizona's deserts to move to Holly Oak to become a wife and stepmother. But it isn't long before Marielle is led to believe that the house she just settled into brings trouble and misfortune to all the women who live there. Local folklore has it that Susannah Page, a Yankee spy who housed Union soldiers, haunts Holly Oak because she's longing for pardon. When Susannah's great-granddaughter Adelaide McClane tells her that the house is "stuck" because of it's tumultuous past, Marielle is determined to get past the rumors and uncover the secrets that are buried within its walls. With Adelaide's richly peppered superstitions and deep family roots at stake, Marielle must carve her new life out carefully as she sorts out the truth and makes peace with the sacrifices she has made for love.


     

 

 A Sound Among the Trees Discussion Questions: Susan Meissner


 

       1. Describe Adelaide. What is her greatest strength? Her greatest weakness? What is her relationship with Holly Oak, and how has it colored her entire life?

 

 

       2. Holly Oak withstood the Civil War but not unscathed. Along with the cannonball embedded in its walls, it acquired a reputation. What do people like Pearl think of the house? How does Adelaide think of the house? What about Susannah? Which is true? Do you think a home can take on any of the characteristics assigned to Holly Oak, or it is simply a building?

 

 

       3. Why does Marielle agree to live in the same house her new husband shared with his previous wife? Do you think she was right? What would you have done in her situation, coming into a family as a stepmother far from the only home you’d ever known?

 

 

       4. Susannah is referred to as a spy, a traitor, and a ghost. Who was she really? How does knowing the truth about Susannah’s life free Adelaide? How does it free Marielle? Caroline?

 

 

       5. Why does Caroline come back to Holly Oak? What do you think would have happened to Adelaide and Marielle if she had not?

 

 

       6. Eldora claims to be in contact with the spirit world. Do you believe her? What did she feel in Holly Oak? What happens when she meets Caroline?

 

 

       7. When she is interviewed by the journalist, Adelaide says, “People will think what they want. They will always think what they want.” How is this statement a key theme of the story? In what ways does it apply Holly Oak, Susannah, the Blue-Haired Old Ladies, even Adelaide and Marielle?

 

 

       8. In a way, A Sound Among the Trees is a ghost story without a ghost. Who is Adelaide’s ghost? Carson’s? Does Marielle have a ghost?

 

 

       9. Adelaide tells Marielle that Holly Oak is stuck, like a needle on a record. What does she mean? At the end of the book, Caroline explains that it is actually Adelaide who is stuck. In what way do the characteristics Adelaide gives to Holly Oak refer instead to herself? Why do you think she projects her unhappiness upon her home in this way?

 

 

     10. With which character do you most closely identify? Adelaide? Marielle? Susannah? Caroline? Someone else? Why do you relate to this character? What similarities does her story have to your own?

 

 

 


 
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