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Secrets of a Charmed Life
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Copyright © 2015 by dailyBooks. All Rights Reserved.
First Published in the United States of America 2015
We hope you enjoy this complementary guide from dailyBooks. We aim to provide quality, thought provoking material to assist in your discovery and discussions on some of today’s favorite books.
No part of this publication may be reproduced or retransmitted, electronic or mechanical, without the written permission of the publisher.
Tips for Using dailyBooks Conversation Starters:
EVERY GOOD BOOK CONTAINS A WORLD FAR DEEPER THAN the surface of its pages. The characters and their world come alive through the words on the pages, yet the characters and its world still live on. Questions herein are designed to bring us beneath the surface of the page and invite us into the world that lives on. These questions can be used to:
Foster a deeper understanding of the book
Promote an atmosphere of discussion for groups
Assist in the study of the book, either individually or corporately
Explore unseen realms of the book as never seen before
THROUGH YEARS OF EXPERIENCE AND FIELD EXPERTISE, from newspaper featured book clubs to local library chapters, dailyBooks can bring your book discussion to life. Host your book party as we discuss some of today’s most widely read books.
Introducing Secrets of a Charmed Life
Introducing the Author
YOUNG AMERICAN HISTORY STUDENT KENDRA VAN ZANT, enamored with the idea of using personal stories to bring history to life, is granted an interview with a nonagenarian who is sharing her story for the first time since surviving the London Blitz of World War II. Nestled in a beautiful cottage called Thistle House, located in the Cotswolds, the well-known local artist drops her first bomb—Isabel isn’t her real name!
So begins the 75-year-old tale of a young girl eager to make her way in the world as a designer and creator of wedding dresses. She shares her dreams, and the treasured illustrations she keeps in a special box, with her younger sister. When a chance encounter with the owner of a neighborhood bridal shop leads to a job, the young girl begins to envision the life of her dreams. She is prepared to sacrifice her time and her relationship with her mother (a single parent) to make her dreams come true. What she doesn’t anticipate is the twist of fate that led the government of the day to evacuate all children ages 15 and under from London.
With the on-going threat of bombing by the Germans, the best protection is evacuation to the countryside. She and her sister are two of the approximately half a million children put on buses and separated from their parents. The two youngsters end up in Stow-on-the-Wold with a lovely older lady and her sister. All seems well until life takes a dramatic turn when the older sister is offered a once in a lifetime opportunity to further her career, and she makes the first in a series of decisions that change her life, and those around her, forever.
Secrets of a Charmed Life becomes a study of choices, choices driven by secrets and secret desires. Small decisions by multiple individuals over three generations, cause a ripple effect that takes decades to unravel. Themes of pain, loss, fear, and abandonment are skillfully interwoven with desires for peace, stability, love, and forgiveness. Meissner weaves a simple yet compelling story that absorbs and holds the reader’s attention and then makes them question their own drive and choices.
AFTER WAITING 42 YEARS TO BEGIN HER WRITING CAREER, Susan Meissner has written and co-authored 19 novels in 14 years. The mother of four young adults and wife of a pastor said she focused on raising her family but has always felt compelled to write. Born in San Diego, California, Meissner acquired a degree in education and later noted that she should have followed her heart and chosen English with a concentration in writing.
Meissner spent five years living in Europe while her husband was in the Air Force. She was aware of the Blitz that took place in London starting on September 7, 1940, but it was not until she began researching Secrets of a Charmed Life that she understood the extent of the devastation caused by the bombings. What she found remarkable was the resilience of the Londoners and their capacity for survival.
Before writing novels became Meissner’s full-time profession, she worked as a part-time journalist in rural Minnesota. The Mountain Lake/Butterfield Observer Advocate printed her weekly column for about three years before she became its editor. The high point of her career was when the Minnesota Newspaper Association named it the Best Weekly Newspaper in Minnesota in 2002, the same year one of her grandfathers died. He was exactly twice her age and his passing was an epiphany. Meissner knew she wanted to follow her lifelong dream of being a novelist. She made the tough decision to leave the security of the newspaper and begin her writing career.
19 books later, her works are widely enjoyed, and she has won many awards, including Publishers Weekly 100 Best Novels Award in 2008, Booklist’s Top Ten Women’s Fiction Titles 2014, Evangelical Christian Publishers Association’s Fiction Book of the Year 2009, and a Christy Award for the coauthored book, The Amish Blacksmith. Meissner has also been a finalist for a RITA Award from the Romance Writers of America.
When not writing, Meissner works as a speaker, teaching writing courses, and developing small group curricula for her church.
Secrets of a Charmed Life alludes to the idea that there is a secret to leading a charmed life. What does Isabel have to say on that topic? What do you think is the secret of a charmed life?
Throughout the novel, characters kept secrets. Discuss the secrets of the minor characters Annie and Rose and the profound impact those had on the lives of Emmy/Isabel and Julia.
Discuss how Annie behaved more like a woman living in 2016 than a 1940s woman.
Emmy is very focused and determined to make her dream a reality. Is her behavior typical of a child of her era? If she lived today, how might she go about becoming a famous designer?
Children are often encouraged to follow their dreams, yet many adults admit to failing to do so. Why do you think this happens?
About half a million children were evacuated from London during World War II, some for as long as five years. Discuss the psychological impact of a 5-year separation for a 7-year-old as compared to a 15-year-old.
Discuss three ways the trauma of being separated affected the way both Julia and Isabel related with others later in their lives.
Before they met, how did the sisters honor one another as adults?
Guilt is a recurring theme in Secrets of a Charmed Life. Discuss how Julia, Isabel, Annie, and Charlotte each dealt with their guilt.
Julia’s refusal to speak for years after the Blitz is likely a symptom of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Why do you think she had such a reaction?
How do you think Isabel’s story impacted Kendra Van Zant’s view of life?
During the course of the story, the Bride’s Box is connected to beauty, joy, fear, jealousy, disappointment, happiness, and liberation. In what ways are each of these emotions connected?
Secrets of a Charmed Life is set in the city and the country. Discuss how and when the city was beneficial for Julia and Isabel.
Discuss the nature of Emmy’s relationship with her mother with a focus on the similarities and the impact of her early death on Emmy/Isabel’s psyche.