Rating: 5+ stars
Anya Whitson is a cold and distant mother to her two daughters, Meredith and Nina. Meredith runs the family’s apple orchard and married while Nina is an award winning photo journalist who has difficulty placing down roots. The only fond memories Meredith and Nina have of their mother is an unfinished Russian fairy tale she used to tell them at bedtime.
Evan Whitson is a warm and loving father and husband. Meredith and Nina are closer to their father than their mother, and closer to their father than they are to each other. When their father falls ill he makes his daughters promise him to make their mother tell the fairy tale in its entirety. They don’t understand why but their father believes the story is the key to understanding their mother, the woman he truly loves.
Their mother agrees and tells the story in bits and pieces over various nights, and always told in the dark. As the story unfolds the truth of Anya’s past life in Russia is revealed and the truth will forever change Anya, her daughters, their relationships with each other and their loved ones, as well as their own outlook on life.
Winter Garden is a devastating and haunting story. It made me want to hug my family tightly and be grateful for my own life’s path. This is a heart-wrenching and beautifully told story about family secrets, relationships between mothers and daughters, war, of love lost and found and the triumph of the human spirit.
After reading The Nightingale (also heart-wrenching) and now Winter Garden, Kristin Hannah is clearly my new favorite author. Her writing is beautiful, moving and insightful. The ending of this book blew me away. My mouth dropped open and my heart was in my throat. I was emotionally drained and reaching for the tissues. I highly recommend this book.