Book Review: Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah

by | Sep 11, 2018 | Heidi's Updates

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 Kristin Hannah’s 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.

My Thoughts: Ever since I read The Nightingale, I’ve been making my way through all of Hannah’s books. She is fast becoming one of my go-to authors, though some of her books hit me more powerfully than others. Winter Garden was one such book.

Breaking the boundaries of a more standard parallel story structure, Hannah uses the power of story (by means of a Russian fairytale) to bring her readers to war-torn Leningrad in 1941. I was drawn to both the modern-day characters and the historical characters. The seamlessness of the two stories held me spellbound. 

This is a story of mothers and daughters and sisters and the strength of love. I’ll admit, I’d had several friends recommend this book to me and for the first part of the book I wasn’t truly certain why it was so talked about. That completely changed by the end. Last night, I stayed up late, wiping tears from my eyes, imagining myself in the place of these characters in such impossible circumstances, wondering if I could have lived through what they did. Even into my dreams, it haunted me. 

A thought-provoking book that celebrates the strength and resilience of the human spirit. A beautiful, stunning ending will certainly satisfy readers of both contemporary and historical fiction.

Other Kristin Hannah books I highly recommend: The Nightingale, Firefly Lane, The Great Alone, and Night Road.

Favorite Quote: “If there was one thing she’d learned in all of this, it was that life–and love–can be gone any second. When you had it, you needed to hang on with all your strength and savor every second.”

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