Published by Brilliance Audio, St. Martin's Press on February 2, 2010
Genres: Literary Fiction
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.
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I haven’t read or listened to any of Kristin Hannah’s other books, so I’m going to confess up front that I was drawn to Winter Garden because Susan Ericksen is the narrator. Those of you who’ve read my posts on J.D. Robb’s In Death Series are aware Ms. Ericksen is a favorite of mine and I was curious to see if I could listen to her without expecting to hear Eve and Roarke at every turn. What I found was a beautifully written story with a fascinating family dynamic. Anya Whitson is a woman whose life has left her emotionally damaged and rendered unable or unwilling to give a mother’s love to her two daughters Meredith and Nina who are polar opposites. Meredith is the good daughter who stays home and helps with the family business. Nina is the daughter with the free spirit who flits from one off-beat location to another to record history in the making with her photographs. When a family crisis forces these three women into a tenuous reconciliation, readers and listeners will begin a journey that is just as heartbreaking as it is uplifting. Please don’t judge any of these characters for the decisions they make unless you have lived your life without ever wishing you’d done something differently. There are parts that are hard to hear, so be forewarned. You may be angry or you may be sad, but you won’t be unmoved by this tale of devastating loss, redemption, and forgiveness.
I’ve already alluded to my love of Susan Ericksen. I certainly wasn’t disappointed because her voices and accents for the characters are perfect. There’s even a very likable Irishman in the mix!
Winter Garden is going to present readers and listeners with a horrifying glimpse of the effects of war on the people who are at the mercy of the combatants. There will be those who would argue that some of the collateral damage can’t be avoided. Really? You may change your mind. Kristin Hannah has written a book which shows in tragic detail how a war’s effects can touch lives beyond the generation fighting it. As to the conclusion . . . I think you will find it equally satisfying and astonishing.