Winter Garden Author:Kristin Hannah Can a woman ever really know herself if she doesn't know her mother? — 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 fal... more »ls 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.« less
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4.0 out of 5 stars "How can a woman know herself, if she doesn't really know her mother?", May 5, 2011
This was a very interesting and emotionally involving story that moved from a present day setting backward in time to Leningrad, Russia, during the siege of that city during WW II.
Middle aged sisters Meredith and Nina have had a very unhappy and unsatisfying relationship with their cold and reserved Russian mother, Anya. They both have spent years trying to reach her and to earn her love, but neither has been able to breech the barrier that has kept her estranged from them. They know nothing about her past, which seems to limit them in their own ability to fully live their lives and to develop good relationships with those they care about. Meredith is the super obsessive older sister who stayed behind to help her parents run their orchard; she uses chores and activities to avoid thinking about why she has never done what she wanted. Nina left the family behind to become a globetrotting photojournalist with no permanent ties and no need to settle down anywhere with anyone. The girls reunite at the family home when their beloved father, Evan, dies and leaves them devastated and alone with the stranger who is their mother.
Through a series of stories told to the girls by their mother -- at first in fairy-tale fashion -- Meredith and Nina discover that their mother has a past that she has tried to escape by never speaking of it. She tells of the horrors of living and trying to survive in war-torn Leningrad during World War II and the subsequent sacrifices she had to make in order to live. The girls finally find out who their mother is and why she is the way she is.
This is a very touching but horrible story that will keep the reader turning the pages until the stunning revelation at the end. This is a book that does more than entertain - it will make the reader think and feel and want to go hug their loved ones. A book like this can change and affect a reader long after the last words have been read. I recommend it.
Having just finished this book, I'm still reeling a bit at the impact the story had on me. I'm afraid that no words I can conjure can do this story justice.
As another reviewer said, it's the story of two adult daughters getting to know their emotionally distant mother after the death of their father. To say more than that would divulge too much of the story, and the reader deserves to experience that themselves.
Suffice it to say it's a story within a story within a story. There are many depths to it, written beautifully.... Some of it glorious and some absolutely tragic. It's a story of the suffering of the body and the triumph of the soul and there's a message in it for all of us.
My love affair with Kristin Hannah began with Firefly Lane. I have since read a few others, and by far, Winter Garden is my favorite.
Winter Garden is the story of 2 estranged daughters who return home to care for their "cold and indifferent" mother, after the death of their beloved father. On his deathbed, Meridith promises her father to take care of her mother, and Nina promises to get the mother to finish "the fairytale" she told them when they were small. Neither girls feel they will be able to honor his wishes.
A masterful story within a story, as the girls try to fullfill their promises, they learn about their mother, and hence themselves.
What results is a gripping read. Though a little slow at first, eventually I couldn't put it down.
Best book I've read in a long time. Highly recommend!!
A great read, each of the characters are unique and has their own interesting story. Coming together as a family was a struggle but very much worth the effort. The ending was wonderful, and so unpredictable. This has become one of my all time favorite books. I belong to a book club and will be recommending it at our next meeting.
This is a life changing book. It was very difficult to put it down. Kristin Hannah has a way to pull you into the lives of her characters and she excelled in the Winter Garden. I am amazed how I miss the characters. It is well worth the time to read, you wont be disappointed.