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Editorial Reviews

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

Publisher's Summary

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.

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  • Overall
  • Jane
  • Saginaw, TX, USA
  • 06-29-10

sad but very interesting

Russian history very good, but there are some very sad moments, worth reading

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • R
  • 03-27-10

Great book

Great book. I couldn't put it down! A compelling story of one's life and how it affects others.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Kathy
  • Branchville, NJ, United States
  • 03-11-10

Excellent

This is the first book of K Hannah that I have read. I didn't want it to end.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Roberta
  • Tecumseh, MI, USA
  • 03-09-10

Beautiful book!

This is one of the most beautiful stories I have 'read' in a long time. I was moved to tears by the ending. It combines a family saga with WWII history in a most engaging way. Not to be missed, and definitely the best of Kristin Hannah.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Performance
  • Story
  • Marie
  • Arlington, TN, United States
  • 11-17-12

You will weep and you will understand the Winter

Get this book! Story and character development are well done, it is not a chick-book - it's a well developed and researched story. Narration is great. Would buy even if not on sale.

8 of 12 people found this review helpful

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  • Story
  • Georgia
  • Little Rock, AR, United States
  • 11-25-16

Stayed Up Late Night After Night Listening!

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Anyone who has an interest in historical fiction would enjoy this book. It's set in modern day, however, the mother tells a story throughout the entire book about her life in Russia during WWII. It's basically two stories in one. The author is masterful!

What other book might you compare Winter Garden to and why?

Ken Follett is one of my favorite authors, and Kristin Hannah is right up there with him! I so happy to have found her! Many of Follett's books are historical fiction and although the characters are fiction ... the history is not. It was the same with this book. The plight of the world during WWII is unimaginable in today's world ... this author wove a tale you could see clearly in your mind's eye and feel the struggles as if you were right there in the room with the characters ... or trudging through snow in subzero temps.

What does Susan Ericksen bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

The narrator is absolutely brilliant. There was not one character or one accent that could have been improved upon. I've listened to her before, but she is right up there in my top five narrators! Perfect for this book.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

I rarely have an "extreme" reaction to any book. But this time, I did. If you truly pay attention to the story and put yourself in the room with the characters, it would be impossible to not have an extreme reaction. I did smile some in the book, but more of my reaction was, "Oh, my God! The Suffering!!!" (at the hands of the Germans.} How could anyone be so evil to so many? No one who went through WWII got away unscathed, whether they were on the battle grounds or just trying to survive without freezing to death or starving to death. It just made me want to help and continue to ask, "Why is this happening? How can he (Hitler) get away with this?" It's so hard for me to understand how millions upon millions were following him ... he was pure evil.

Any additional comments?

It's a history lesson that you will enjoy. Although there is a lot of suffering in this book, there is no doubt this is an accurate account of exactly how it was in Russia during WWII. It was truly an amazing book. The ending was perfect.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Performance
  • Story

Fascinating!

Would you consider the audio edition of Winter Garden to be better than the print version?

Yes because the narrator has a wonderful Russian accent. I could hear my mother again!

Who was your favorite character and why?

Vera, aka Anya, was my favorite. She had a character that grew on me and was an incredibly strong individual.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

Vera's accent, as I mentioned above, was very believable.

Any additional comments?

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.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Excellent story and narration

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.

3 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Linda
  • Crestview, FL, United States
  • 10-19-10

Touched my heart

This was a great book. It was a bit slow in the first half,but the story in the 2nd part made up for it...couldn't put the headphones down once that started.

3 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Story

History, Sad, Tender cruel & love

Most Definitely in my top 10 of all audio books. perfect narration. One you won't soon forget.