Winter Garden is a beautiful and haunting story that will touch your heart and remain in your thoughts for days. It highlights the fragility of the mother-daughter bond and the endearing love that can survive between mothers, daughters and sisters.
Kristin Hannah states that this line was the start of her writing this book and it is one that is so fitting to this story....
Sometimes when you open the door to your mother’s past, you find your own future…
Meredith and Nina are estranged sisters and they both are very different. Meredith stays in her hometown to raise her family and run the family apple orchard business. Nina leaves town as soon as she can and travels the world as a photojournalist and rarely visits her family. Their beloved father who is the family patriarch becomes ill and they both make promises to him upon his deathbed. Little did they know that these promises would be so challenging and life changing.
The sisters were never close to their mother Anya. She was distant and cold and seemed so unhappy. They learned at very young ages not to expect comfort, love or even a hug from their mother. Fortunately, their father was the loving and fun one but he still couldn't protect them from the hurt their mother's actions resulted in. Their mother did one thing for them, she told them enchanting Russian fairytales which later they would learn held a secret to her past.
Meredith and Nina finally put the pieces of the puzzle together and uncovered the secrets of their mother's past. The truth that they uncover is one that is so unimaginable that it challenges who they thought they were and changes the roots of their family in an amazing way.
I absolutely loved this book as it is written with such strong female characters and a plot that unwinds and flows seamlessly. There is a mystery and a love story that takes the reader through the war ravaged days of Leningrad when Stalin was in charge and during the siege of Leningrad, through to the modern days in Washington and Alaska. The historical part of this story was told in such detail starting as a fairy tale until the brutal truth is unraveled. Anya, appears like a cold, detached mother who doesn't love her daughters but that is so far from the truth. She is a strong woman that has endured much that she has kept buried as it was too painful to reveal. She has a great and deep love that will be revealed in her story with a major surprise at the end that I did not see coming.
I have read several of Kristin Hannah's earlier books but that was years ago. I have to say that her writing has grown and blossomed and Winter Garden will be one of my favorite books by Ms. Hannah. I highly encourage you to pick up a copy, you will enjoy this beautifully written novel. I was entranced in this story while reading it and it has stayed with me since I finished it.
This would make an excellent book to discuss with a book club as there are so many themes to discuss.
You can read more about Kristin Hannah and her other novels at her website, here.