Title: Winter Garden
Author: Kristin Hannah
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Genre: Women's Fiction
No. of Pages: 454
Date of Publication: February 2, 2010
My Rating: 5 Stars
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.
Winter Garden is the sixth book I have read by Kristin Hannah in the past few months, but this is the first review of any of her titles. My review queue is overwhelming so I do not always have the time to review all of the books that I read. However, I read this book as a buddy read with someone, and listened to it as an audiobook so I thought I would take a few minutes to discuss this captivating book by an author who is definitely becoming one of my all-time favorites.
After completing this book it took me time to respond to my buddy because I was in tears and I had to "let it all out". As tender as this story is, the only time I bawled was at the end. As a matter of fact, I replayed the last couple of chapters and epilogue.
This book is about a mother, Anya, who loses her husband of many years and her daughters Meredith and Nina. The sisters are as different as can be when it came to living their lives, as Meredith raised her children and stayed and cared for the family's apple orchard. Nina has made a name for herself by becoming a world-renowned photojournalist. Meredith is there when their dear father falls ill and dies, and also is there to witness their mother falling completely apart.
It was at this point in the story that I started to dislike Nina. Where was she? Well, she did come back home and at first the sisters were at loggerheads when it came to decisions concerning their mother. However, before their father died, he had one request. Throughout the years, Anya was a gifted storyteller. However, she was never connected to her daughters. This was painful for me to read. Well, there is one story that Anya told over the years, but there was never an end to this story. Meredith's and Nina's father wanted the story told to its completion.
Well, what ensues is something that will not only change the sisters' lives, but it has a powerful impact on Anya while she relays it. At this point the story begins to shift. Even though it is being told by Anya, with her devastating past while she lived in Leningrad, I felt like I was in that part of her history. What is more is that as a reader I got to see how this story truly affected both Meredith and Nina. Oh, by the way, Nina eventually redeemed herself in my eyes.
There was a point in the story where I thought I would bawl at first, but something happened to make me laugh instead. The pages wore on and I was totally pulled into the the stories, both the one in the past and and the one presently, where we got to see how each woman in this book was affected by the recollection of the past.
As I stated, I am finding Kristin Hannah to be one of my new favorite writers. She spans different genres, but always manages to craft remarkable stories. Listening to this via audiobook had an extra advantage for me, as it was narrated by Susan Ericksen, who is also narrating the entire In Death series by J. D Robb, and having listened to 38 books in that series so far, I just love her voice. In this book, with Anya being Russian, Ericksen did a great job with her accent.
The conclusion rocked me! I just had to take a bit of time to immediately listen to it again. I did break down. I never expected the story, as well as the end of the book to have such a powerful impact, but it did. This story gave me the opportunity to get to know all three women and what drove them, and also what pulled them together.
Kudos to Kristin Hannah. As time permits, I will be digging deep into her backlist and reading as much of it as possible, while at the same time hoping for more books by her in the future. I love her writing style and the characters she develops.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Her novel, The Nightingale, has been published in 43 languages and is currently in movie production at TriStar Pictures, which also optioned her novel, The Great Alone. Her novel, Home Front has been optioned for film by 1492 Films (produced the Oscar-nominated The Help) with Chris Columbus attached to direct.
Kristin is a former-lawyer-turned writer who lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband. Her novel, Firefly Lane, became a runaway bestseller in 2009, a touchstone novel that brought women together, and The Nightingale, in 2015 was voted a best book of the year by Amazon, Buzzfeed, iTunes, Library Journal, Paste, The Wall Street Journal and The Week. Additionally, the novel won the coveted Goodreads and People’s Choice Awards. The audiobook of The Nightingale won the Audiobook of the Year Award in the fiction category.