Thursday, March 25, 2010

Review: Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah

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.

Kristin Hannah has done it again. This book was truly amazing and held a story (a fairy tale) within a story. This book was on my mind constantly and I was frustrated when I couldn't read it every second. There was so much heartache in this story and yet there was also so much hope and promise. I was identifying with Meredith in so many places in the story. Meredith was constantly doing what she thought others expected or needed her to do and never doing what she wanted to do. I was so pleased with how each of the characters in the story struggled, reacted, changed, and grew. I can't say how many times I cried while reading this book. I became so wrapped up in the fairy tale story inside the story, that I, like Nina and Meredith, got frustrated when that part of it ended and moved back into the present time. I wanted to get to the end of the fairy tale story. During that fairy tale story, I could feel Anya's pain as a mother. The choices she was making for her children were heart wreching. As a mother, I couldn't imagine making those choices and yet feeling the pain as she did.

Some of my favorite quotes from the story...

Meredith: I don't know what's going to happen. I think maybe love can just....dissolve.

Mother: No, it does not

Meredith: So how do---

Mother: You hang on. Until your hands are bleeding, and still you do not let go.
Why was that? Why had Meredith been so ready to bypass her own happiness? She'd thought there would be time to unwind those choices, that if she put her children first for nineteen years, she could then shift course and be the one who mattered. As easy as changing lanes while driving. But it hadn't been like that, not for her anyway. She'd lost too much of herself in parenthood to simply go back to who she'd been before.

I think this is Hannah's best yet and I recommend that you run out and get it right away. Snuggle in with a blanket and some won't want to put it down.  I gave this 5 out of 5 stars.

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