in Kristin Hannah’s Winter Garden, we find three women a mother and two daughters by blood, but strangers in their hearts reeling from the loss of the man who held their fragile family together. Emptiness pervades this story hollowing out what is left of the Whitson family and creeping into the space between narrator Susan Erickson’s words.
Anya and her daughters Meredith and Nina have already lost their husband and father to death and risk losing each other to pride. Evan Whitson knew of this risk, and on his deathbed asked his wife to tell their daughters her “fairy tale” from start to finish. And so we find the Whitson women gathered in the dark at their family home, Belye Nochi, night after night.
Meredith is the older daughter who stayed home to take care of the family business, and her marriage is falling apart. Younger sister Nina, meanwhile, has traveled the globe as a renowned photographer, but refuses to marry the love of her life. Neither sister has much of a relationship with the other much less with their cold and distant mother, Anya, whose mysterious past in Russia haunts them all.
Erickson’s Anya is resolute, her Nina bold, and her Meredith lost. Effortlessly, it seems, Erickson captures in one moment the decades of sorrow in Anya’s voice and in the next the ready spirit in Nina’s. Always we hear the sheer exhaustion in Meredith’s. Erickson’s voice is at times empty and full, icy and warm, sharp and soft. Throughout the book all three women are alternately devastated with loss, isolated by bitterness, and joyous for the love of family, and Erickson lets us hear it all with her honest and gentle delivery.
Winter Garden is a story best listened to it is after all a testament to the power of storytelling. What Meredith and Nina hear in their mother’s story will cause them to face their grief head on and just might make them a family once again. Sarah Evans Hogeboom
From the author of the smash-hit best-seller 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 fails 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.
©2010 Kristin Hannah; (P)2010 Brilliance Audio, Inc.
"Winter Garden" has to one of my most favorite books by Kristin Hannah. The book is about 3 women and their journey of discovery of who they are, of family history, of sacrifices made, of sisterhood and family secrets.
The book opens up when sisters Meredith and Nina are putting on a family play of a ‘fairy tale’ their mother Anya often tells them at night – of a Russian Prince and peasant girl. The acting out of this play angers Anya and the play is stopped. This is when they, as sisters become distant with each other and believe their cold, distant mother doesn’t love them. Fast forward to current day – when the 2 sisters; Meredith, the nurturer who runs the family apple orchard but living in a troubled marriage - Nina, prize-winning and world-renowned photojournalist, someone who avoids coming home and committing to a relationship, and Anya, their mother. They are forced to deal with their father’s death and promises each has made to him on his death bed. These promises force the 3 women to open up about their lives to each other and discover who they are as women and what they want. As Anya finally tells the full fairy tale of the prince and peasant girl - Meredith and Nina discover who their mother really is, of her strength, endurance and regrets.
There are moments in this books that are sad, heartbreaking, yet captivating – I so enjoyed the story within a story although not always a happy or feel good type of read. I did feel the beginning of the book was a little slow to take off but well worth hanging in there - so I would give the book more of a 4 1/2 stars. There were some surprises and some parts that were very predictable. This actually was an audiobook which was narrated by Susan Ericksen. I felt she did an excellent job and made the book very enjoyable to listen to, her Irish and Russian accents were right on for me.
The characters' behavior is unnatural & unrealistic, in my opinion. Neither mother or daughters would repond as these women did, given their circumstances.
A good narration, however.
The accents and voices are great for immersing me in the stories.
This book's first half is almost painful. The characters are annoying at best - spoiled, selfish, and I had no love. But the second half makes up for it. Wow. the story had me in tears more than once, and I could not stop listening. I know this story will stay with me a long time. It makes me want to seek out more stories from that time and place.
Yes because the narrator has a wonderful Russian accent. I could hear my mother again!
Vera, aka Anya, was my favorite. She had a character that grew on me and was an incredibly strong individual.
Vera's accent, as I mentioned above, was very believable.
My mother was an immigrant from Estonia, which at the time of this story was a part of the USSR and I have heard these stories from her. Very nostalgic and has helped me to realize what my family's roots are.
The story is like none other I have ever read or listened to, there was no feeling of been there,done that, with this book. The "fairytales" just sucked me in, I felt a part of them. The performance was exquist. Susan Erickson made each character their own and just did an amazing job. So very worth listening to.
An avid reader, demanding of the story, characters and narrator. Mysteries and historical fiction are my favorites.
This is basically a good story. However, the author could have told the story in 1/2 as many pages.
Kristin Hannah has fast become one of my favorite authors. She knows how to tell a woman's story. They have so far (I have read this and Firefly Lane) been a bit dramatic and extreme, but believeable. In this case, it was a bit tiresome as the two sisters squabbled back and forth over the same issues, but that is reality in a family (I have three sisters). And the mother was a bit extreme in her hesitancy (refusal) to connect emotionally with these two daughters. But the mother's tale was riveting. This was delightful to listen to (if you can call the struggles Anya went through delightful). I will get more books by Hannah to listen to and recommend others do the same.
Love the story and there are lessons to learn! Women go through a lot and also have a lot to learn. Will definitely try others books from this author.
The characters are well-defined. The storyline absorbs you! The ending a shocker! A book that is well worth your money and your time!
Awesome! It was an interesting way of introducing the story line over generations. The story was never finished until the last page. How could you not feel the joy and the pain of the mother as a child and her daughters struggle to understand her. It just gets better and better. I loved this book. I will listen again and again.
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