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Authors: Susan Meissner

A Sound Among the Trees

BOOK: A Sound Among the Trees
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Praise for
A Sound Among the Trees

“In
A Sound Among the Trees
, author Meissner transports readers to another time and place to weave her lyrical tale of love, loss, forgiveness, and letting go. Her beautifully drawn characters are flawed yet likable, their courage and resilience echoing in the halls of Holly Oak for generations. A surprising conclusion and startling redemption make this book a pageturner, but the setting—the beautiful old Holly Oak and all of its ghosts—is what will seep into the reader’s bones, making
A Sound Among the Trees
a book you don’t want to put down.”

—K
AREN
W
HITE
,
New York Times
best-selling author of
The Beach Trees

“My eyes welled up more than once! And I thought it especially fitting that, having already shown us the shape of mercy in a previous novel, Susan Meissner is now showing us the many shapes of love.
A Sound Among the Trees
is a hauntingly lyrical book that will make you believe a house can indeed have a memory … and maybe a heart. A beautiful story of love, loss, and sacrifice, and of the bonds that connect us through time.”

—S
USANNA
K
EARSLEY
,
New York Times
best-selling author of
The Winter Sea

“I have a dozen things to do (like sleep!), but here I huddle through the night, turning pages, mesmerized by yet another Susan Meissner novel. How does Susan create characters that stay with me long after I close the book? How does she transport a reader so easily to a mansion in the South, in this century, bringing one family’s challenge of the Civil War to speak to contemporary times? How does she address the emotions and memories that hold us hostage with such grace? How do her turns of phrase bring tears unbidden to my eyes? I keep reading, knowing I’ll discover a fascinating story and hoping I’ll infuse some of the skill and craft that Susan weaves to make it.
A Sound Among the Trees
is one more exceptional novel from a world-class storyteller. Jodi Picoult, make room at the top.”

—J
ANE
K
IRKPATRICK
, award-winning author of
The Daughter’s Walk


A Sound Among the Trees
is another Meissner masterpiece filled with well-shaped characters, a compelling plot, and haunting questions: are our memories reliable enough to grow us, or do we cling to them as an excuse not to live? Meissner stunned me as she skillfully grappled with those mysteries. I left the book resolved to live joyfully in the sacredness of today.”

—M
ARY
D
EMUTH
, author of
The Muir House

A S
OUND
A
MONG THE
T
REES
P
UBLISHED BY
W
ATER
B
ROOK
P
RESS
12265 Oracle Boulevard, Suite 200
Colorado Springs, Colorado 80921

Apart from well-known real people and real events associated with the Civil War, the characters and events in this book are fictional and any resemblance to actual persons or events is coincidental.

Copyright © 2011 by Susan Meissner

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying and recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

Published in the United States by WaterBrook Multnomah, an imprint of the Crown
Publishing Group, a division of Random House Inc., New York.

W
ATER
B
ROOK
and its deer colophon are registered trademarks of Random House Inc.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Meissner, Susan, 1961–
       A sound among the trees : a novel / by Susan Meissner. — 1st ed.
           p. cm.
       eISBN: 978-0-307-45886-5
   1. Haunted houses—Virginia—Fredericksburg—Fiction. 2. Fredericksburg
(Va.)—History—Civil War, 1861–1865—Fiction. 3. Psychological fiction. I. Title.
      PS3613.E435S68 2011
      813′.6—dc22
                                                                      2011013220

v3.1

Contents

Cover

Title Page

Copyright

Epigraph

Part One: The Garden

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6

Part Two: The Parlor

Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13

Part Three: The Studio

Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Chapter 19
Chapter 20
Chapter 21
Chapter 22

Part Four: The Cellar

Chapter 23

Part Five: Holly Oak

Chapter 24
Chapter 25

Epilogue

Author’s Notes

Readers Guide

Acknowledgments

There’s a sound among the forest trees, away, boys,
Away to the battlefield, hurrah!
Hear its thunders from the mountain, no delay, boys.
We’ll gird on the sword and shield.
Shall we falter on the threshold of our fame, boys?
F
ANNY
C
ROSBY,
1861

Part One
THE GARDEN

he bride stood in a circle of Virginia sunlight, her narrow heels clicking on Holly Oak’s patio stones as she greeted strangers in the receiving line. Her wedding dress was a simple A-line, strapless, with a gauzy skirt of white that breezed about her ankles like lacy curtains at an open window. She had pulled her unveiled brunette curls into a loose arrangement dotted with tiny flowers that she’d kept alive on her flight from Phoenix. Her only jewelry was a white topaz pendant at her throat and the band of platinum on her left ring finger. Tall, slender, and tanned from the famed and relentless Arizona sun, hers was a girl-next-door look: pretty but not quite beautiful. Adelaide thought it odd that Marielle held no bouquet.

From the parlor window Adelaide watched as her grandson-in-law, resplendent in a black tuxedo next to his bride, bent toward the guests and greeted them by name, saying, “This is Marielle.” An explanation seemed ready to spring from his lips each time he shook the hand of someone who had known Sara, her deceased granddaughter. His first wife. Carson stood inches from Marielle, touching her elbow every so often, perhaps to assure himself that after four years a widower he had indeed patently and finally moved on from grief.

Smatterings of conversations wafted about on the May breeze and into the parlor as received guests strolled toward trays of sweet tea and champagne. Adelaide heard snippets from her place at the window. Hudson and Brette, her great-grandchildren, had moved away from the snaking line of
gray suits and pastel dresses within minutes of the first guests’ arrival and were now studying the flower-festooned gift table under the window ledge, touching the bows, fingering the silvery white wrappings. Above the children, an old oak’s youngest branches shimmied to the tunes a string quartet produced from the gazebo beyond the receiving line.

Adelaide raised a teacup to her lips and sipped the last of its contents, allowing the lemony warmth to linger at the back of her throat. She had spent the better part of the morning readying the garden for Carson and Marielle’s wedding reception, plucking spent geranium blossoms, ordering the catering staff about, and straightening the rented linen tablecloths. She needed to join the party now that it had begun. The Blue-Haired Old Ladies would be wondering where she was.

Her friends had been the first to arrive, coming through the garden gate on the south side of the house at five minutes before the hour. She’d watched as Carson introduced them to Marielle, witnessed how they cocked their necks in blue-headed unison to sweetly scrutinize her grandson-in-law’s new wife, and heard their welcoming remarks through the open window.

Deloris gushed about how lovely Marielle’s wedding dress was and what, pray tell, was the name of that divine purple flower she had in her hair?

Pearl invited Marielle to her bridge club next Tuesday afternoon and asked her if she believed in ghosts.

Maxine asked her how Carson and she had met—though Adelaide had told her weeks ago that Carson met Marielle on the Internet—and why on earth Arizona didn’t like daylight-saving time.

Marielle had smiled, sweet and knowing—like the kindergarten teacher who finds the bluntness of five-year-olds endearing—and answered the many questions.

Mojave asters. She didn’t know how to play bridge. She’d never encountered
a ghost so she couldn’t really say but most likely not. She and Carson met online. There’s no need to save what one has an abundance of.

Carson had cupped her elbow in his hand, and his thumb caressed the inside of her arm while she spoke.

Adelaide swiftly set the cup down on the table by the window, whisking away the remembered tenderness of that same caress on Sara’s arm.

Carson had every right to remarry.

Sara had been dead for four years.

She turned from the bridal tableau outside and inhaled deeply the gardenia-scented air in the parlor. Unbidden thoughts of her granddaughter sitting with her in that very room gently nudged her. Sara at six cutting out paper dolls. Memorizing multiplication tables at age eight. Sewing brass buttons onto gray wool coats at eleven. Sara reciting a poem for English Lit at sixteen, comparing college acceptance letters at eighteen, sharing a chance letter from her estranged mother at nineteen, showing Adelaide her engagement ring at twenty-four. Coming back home to Holly Oak with Carson when Hudson was born. Nursing Brette in that armchair by the fireplace. Leaning against the door frame and telling Adelaide that she was expecting her third child.

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