Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Review: "Winter Garden" by Kristin Hannah

From Goodreads:  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.

My Thoughts:  This was my first Kristin Hannah book and I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed it.  I was drawn to the book because of the Leningrad story line but fell in love with the story as a whole.

First and foremost, this is a story about the relationship between a mother and her children.  It wasn't pretty and I really felt for Meredith and Nina as more and more was revealed about their childhood and their mother's treatment of them.  I knew there would be more to explain Anya's cold and cruel treatment of her daughters but there were times early in the story where it was hard to like her.  As the story progressed, the reader learns more about Anya's past and she morphs into this incredibly deep and beautiful character.

A big chunk of the book is told by Anya to her daughters; it starts out as a fairy tale but quickly becomes Anya telling the story of her youth during the siege of Leningrad.  Anyone who has read about the siege of Leningrad will know how awful her story was.  It is Anya's story that helps her daughters understand their childhood and their relationship (or lack thereof) with their mother.  Anya's story is heartbreaking but the more she tells it, the more the reader can see a weight lifted off of her.  I won't give anything away but I loved the way the author ended the book.  There was a little part of me that wished it could have ended in a slightly different way but overall, the ending was perfect.  It was kind of a surprise and when all was revealed, I cried so much!  

Like I said above, I haven't read any of Kristin Hannah's books before but I will definitely be picking some up in the future.  Her writing is amazing and she does a fantastic job of creating well-developed, relatable characters.  I would highly recommend this book to any reader.  4 stars.

This book is part of my personal collection.

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