Friday, August 31, 2012

Winter Garden, Kristin Hannah (4.75 stars)

From Amazon: Can a woman ever really know herself if she doesn’t know her mother?

From the author of the smash-hit bestseller Firefly Lane and True Colors comes a powerful, heartbreaking novel that illuminates the intricate mother-daughter bond and explores the enduring links between the present and the past.
Meredith and Nina Whitson are as different as sisters can be. One stayed at home to raise her children and manage the family apple orchard; the other followed a dream and traveled the world to become a famous photojournalist. But when their beloved father falls ill, Meredith and Nina find themselves together again, standing alongside their cold, disapproving mother, Anya, who even now, offers no comfort to her daughters. As children, the only connection between them was the Russian fairy tale Anya sometimes told the girls at night. On his deathbed, their father extracts a promise from the women in his life: the fairy tale will be told one last time—and all the way to the end. Thus begins an unexpected journey into the truth of Anya’s life in war-torn Leningrad, more than five decades ago. Alternating between the past and present, Meredith and Nina will finally hear the singular, harrowing story of their mother’s life, and what they learn is a secret so terrible and terrifying that it will shake the very foundation of their family and change who they believe they are.

Every thread in our life tapestry is carefully woven from past experiences… love, loss, growth, fears, and so on. In Winter Garden, Kristin Hannah masterfully weaves together pieces of the past and present to create an amazing tapestry of one woman’s journey and how it affected every life she touched.  

When the story begins, we meet Meredith and Nina along with their mother and father. The girls have a very tense relationship with their mother, the only bonding moments come at night when the mom tells them what appear to be fairy tales. Their father is the glue that holds the family together. Before he passes away, he asks the daughters to not give up on their mother and then asks his wife to finish her story.  

And what a story it is. It’s hard, at first, to like Anya. She comes across as cold and completely detached from her two daughters. But as her story unfolds, she slowly takes over your heart. The daughters are resistant and disagree on how to proceed with a mother that seems to be cracking and disconnecting.  

The three women take a journey toward each other that’s painstaking, powerful, and heartbreaking. I don’t want to divulge too much about the story within a story, because it has twists and turns that each reader needs to experience in their own way. It’s beautiful, touching, and at times draining and depressing. In the beginning, I held little hope for this family. By the end, my hope was restored.  

Poignant and powerful, Winter Garden is a must-read and bound to be a classic. You will never forget Anya’s story and her resilience to keep going.  

Rating: 4.75 stars  

Note: On Amazon and Goodreads, I will round up to a 5-star rating. The only thing that held me back from a full 5 was the fact that I read The Book Thief just before this book. Considering the similar theme, I couldn’t give them both a full 5. However, comparing any book to The Book Thief just doesn’t seem quite fair, thus the rounding. Had I read this book first, I fully believe it would have been a 5.