Winter Garden

Winter Garden
Published: 2011-01-04

Well, she does it again.

Meredith is struggling.  Her oldest child is on her way to becoming a doctor, and her youngest child is beginning her freshman year of college.  This should be one of the easiest and happiest times of her life; yet, she is having a hard time adjusting to her role as an empty nester.  Her marriage, while strong in its longevity, is in a free-fall as it struggles to survive the inevitable changes experienced when the baby of the family leaves home.  She works overtime at her family’s orchard that was started by her father upon his return from serving in World War II.

Nina is struggling.  She works crazy hours in third world countries as a contracted photographer always looking for the perfect shot that accurately conveys the suffering unknown to many in America.  She is in a relationship, but it’s hardly stable as she finds it hard to commit to the idea of a seemingly boring domestic future that her sister, Meredith, has whole heartedly embraced.

Even though Meredith and Nina are sisters, the similarities between the two are few and far between.  It is hard to find any common ground except for the love and devotion they both feel for their father.  The girls’ childhood has been stained by the harsh words and actions of their mother, a Russian immigrant named Anya whose affection they have been deprived as she keeps them at a safe emotional distance and destroys their perception of love and acceptance through her emotional outbursts and confusing reactions.

To make things worse, their beloved father is terminally ill.  His dying wish is for his daughters to not only reconcile with each other, but also with their mother who seems to be stumbling mentally between reality and fantasy.  Their father insists the only way for all 3 girls to understand each other is for their mother to continue telling them an old Russian fairy tale that she recited to the girls as children complete with dragons, black knights, and other mythical creatures and structures.  Attempting to honor his wishes, Anya agrees to finally tell the conclusion of the Russian fairy tale, except, the girls are beginning to wonder if this story is more fact than fiction.  As Anya tells of unthinkable atrocities, the sisters are brought together to find out the truth about themselves, their father, and their mother whom they discover has secrets as deep as an ocean and as dark as a Russian winter.

  • Why I read this book: Recommendation in a Facebook group
  • Trigger Warnings: violence, tragedy, mild sexual conduct

When I finished this book, I had to sit for a few minutes and process everything that I had just read.  I was not expected to be taken on such an emotional journey because I thought The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah was the peak of gut-wrenching stories.

I was wrong.  But in the most beautiful way.

This book is historical fiction set in Russia during the early 1940s.  I know that WWII is a heavily covered topic in historical fiction, and some people might grow weary of this genre, but I cannot emphasize enough how good this book is.  It’s so well written, and I found myself truly loving how the characters were developed.  The stories flip back and forth between 1941 and present day, but the writing was so crystal clear and concise that I didn’t find the jumping in time periods to be confusing in the least.

Please read this book.  Enjoy the journey.

2 thoughts on “Winter Garden

  1. Elizabeth Lazar

    Goodness!!! I thought I had it all figured out at the beginning, I was wrong. Then in the middle I just knew now I had figured it out, I was wrong.
    This author is outstanding. I’ve read several of her books. I’ve had Winter Garden in my library for 10 years. The story in a story was interesting. It made me stop and think.

    I have nothing to worry about in my after reading this. I have not had hardships anywhere close to this. What I kept thinking about was the situation in Ukraine and all the immigrants who take a chance to change their lives. I want this world to be a kinder and more accepting of all people.

    I have no idea what I’ll read next. This was book 96. Four more books to reach my goal for my reading life.

    • admin

      I absolutely loved reading your comment about this book that is SO near and dear to my heart. Like you, I grieved for the “real life” characters that were represented in this book because you know this fictitious story was not so far from reality for some people. I cannot tell you much I literally sobbed at the ending of this book. I needed a minute by alone to collect myself. Thank you so much for sharing your experience with this book with me. I’m so excited for you to reach your reading goal for life!

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