The delicious brooding quality of Susan Meissner’s A Sound Among the Trees reminds me of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca. Marielle, like the narrator of Rebecca, is a new bride who comes to live in her predecessor’s ancient family home. And like Maximilian de Winter, Marielle’s husband Carson seems oblivious to the emotional toll she pays to live there in his dead wife’s shadow.
Adelaide, Carson’s nearly ninety-year-old grandmother-in-law, although no Mrs. Danvers, is a bit cold and distant. She has suffered greatly. Her teenage daughter Caroline had run away to a life of drugs, alcohol and sex, returning only once to give her infant daughter into her care. And now that granddaughter is dead and Carson has brought Marielle to replace her. Adelaide believes that a “slow waltz of destiny” falls on “all women born to Holly Oak” to suffer and do penance for the sins of its earlier daughter Susannah, who allegedly betrayed her family and the Confederacy. Adelaide labors at sewing Confederate uniforms for modern day Civil War re-enactors. She says it’s because “some things are worth remembering” but it seems to be her personal penance too.
The War Between the States continues to cast its shadow over Holly Oak. The house withstood the Battle of Fredericksburg, but still bears a war wound; a cannonball is lodged in its side. Adelaide’s friends, the “Blue-Haired Old Ladies, believe Susannah haunts Holly Oak. Adelaide believes it has a soul, like a “sentient being.” Indeed, Holly Oak, echoing with violent memories, is as much a character in the story as Manderley is in Rebecca.
But when Adelaide’s prodigal daughter Caroline returns home, whole and healthy, having found redemption among ministering nuns, Adelaide and Marielle discover the truth about Holly Oak. It becomes, finally, what a house is meant to be, “a place of safety aIt would be so nice of you to share!