Book Review – Winter Garden

Winter Garden
Kristin Hannah

I love a book that not only makes me want to turn the pages, but inspires me to want to know more about a true event in history.  Winter Garden is exactly that type of book.
Written by Kristin Hannah, Winter Garden is the story of two young women who have grown up as strangers to their own mother.  An immigrant from Russia following WWII, Anya Whitson has deliberately removed herself from the day-to-day joys of motherhood and has entirely deferred the position of nurturer to her husband.
When their father suddenly dies, Meredith and Nina Whitson are left to care for the mother they’ve never really known. Their only real connection to her has been through a fairy tale she created and occasionally told her daughters when they were small children, and never in its entirety.  As their father takes his final breaths, he demands a promise from his wife and daughters:  his wife is to tell the fairy tale to his daughters one last time to its full completion, and they are to listen to the entire story.  Thus unfolds a story so heartbreaking and shocking that it shakes the very foundation of everything Meredith and Nina thought they knew about their family and, most especially, their mother.
Winter Garden is a riveting story about the love between parent and child, and the strength of the human spirit.  The “fairy tale” Anya tells her daughters focuses on her life before she met their father and moved away from her homeland.  She tells the tale of her life in Leningrad, Russia, and of the 900-Day siege of the city by German troops during WWII that left more than 600,000 civilians dead, as they literally starved and froze to death when their provisions and outside communications had been entirely cut off by Nazi soldiers.

With much research, Hannah has recreated the events of Leningrad to provide an accurate historical perspective to a work of fiction.  As a result, Winter Garden should appeal not only to those who enjoy a good page-turner, but also to those who have a keen interest in historical fiction.

This book is available at the library in traditional format and on audio compact disc, as well as through the library’s digital catalogue in a downloadable audio version.  For more information about this book or the author’s other wonderful works, visit her website at www.kristinhannah.com.
~ Catherine H. Armstrong

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