The product description of Kristin Hannah’s novel Winter Garden asks, Can a woman ever really know herself if she doesn’t know her mother? And such is the premise of this novel as it explores the relationships between two sisters and their mother.
Meredith, the oldest of the two sisters who runs the family orchard, is an empty nester caught in a struggling marriage. Nina is a jet setting award winning photographer more at home in a war zone than Washington state where she grew up. Anya, their mother, is a Russian immigrant who has never shown her daughters any affection nor attention except when telling fairy tales. When the girls’ father dies, he exacts from them both a promise. Meredith promises to take care of her mother though she has long ceased to desire her love. Nina pledges to get Anya to tell the whole of the fairy tale, something Anya has never done. Nina is assured that the secret to understanding their mother lies in the fairy tale itself.
Neither promise is easy to keep. Anya remains distant, even showing signs of losing her grasp on reality. As both daughters struggle through personal heartaches, their dogged determination convinces Anya to tell the story, in pieces, and in the dark. What emerges is a haunting, harrowing account of Anya’s experiences in wartime Leningrad.
Winter Garden is a story of the debilitating effects of regret and loss. The ending was far too neat and tidy in my opinion, too stark of a contrast to the poignancy and heartbreak that marked the rest of the novel. The coincidences, though heartwarming and happy, seemed a little too coincidental. Also, some readers will want to know there is some adult content: language, drinking, sexual references, none of which really contributed to the novel’s appeal, in my opinion.
Reservations about the ending and the language aside, I liked Winter Garden. Hannah tackles some of the most complex relationships, those of mother-daughter-sister, with an honest and compelling story that was difficult to put down.
Thanks to Authors on the Web for providing the review copy.
Wife and mother, Bible teacher and blogger, Lisa loves Jesus, coffee, dark chocolate and, of course, books. Read more of her reflections at Lisa writes….