Title: Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah
Format: Kindle Edition (401 Pages)
Genre: Historical Fiction, Women’s Fiction, World War II (Russia)
Blurb: Can a woman ever really know herself if she doesn’t know her mother?
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.
I considered DNF’ing this book a number of times except that I don’t like to not finish novels. I’m glad I finished it as I really enjoyed the last 40% of the book. It started really slow and I didn’t really care for the characters but my opinions shifted along the way.
I’m trying not to stand in judgment because war and loss must really break something in some people’s spirit and soul. Unless I have experienced that kind of torment, anguish and despair, I can’t really expect them to act like what I consider “normal” parents. The mother in me didn’t like Anya as a mother to young Nina and Meredith. I also blame her and her husband for her Children’s inability to connect with their significant other later in life. The mother in me later wept with Anya and was amazed at how she survived the horrific things the Nazi put them through and it helped put Anya’s behavior in a different context. I love Historical Fiction (and Romance) books and it never ceases to amaze me the amount of reserve inner fortitude most human beings have. World War II books have very similar themes of constant hunger, fear, bombings, separation from loved ones etc. Yet after all the horrific tales, the survivors still stand. They may be irreparable damaged but they are in my opinions still the victors of the war.
I think Anya’s husband should have bridged this gap a lot earlier. So I guess I will shift my judgment and blame on him because at the end of the day, the formative years of Nina ans Meredith was full of emotional neglect and he could have helped more. That play scene must have been very devastating to children who just want their parents love and admiration. I wish the author did flashbacks through out the book to build the two experiences of Anya instead of waiting late into the book to give us a glimpse into a mother’s pain. I loved the ending though it was a bit farfetched.