Blackberry Winter: A Novel

( 128 )

Overview

In 2011, Sarah Jio burst onto the fiction scene with two sensational novels—The Violets of March and The Bungalow. With Blackberry Winter—taking its title from a late-season, cold-weather phenomenon—Jio continues her rich exploration of the ways personal connections can transcend the boundaries of time. 

Seattle, 1933. Single mother Vera Ray kisses her three-year-old son, Daniel, goodnight and departs to work the night-shift at a local hotel. She emerges to ...

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Blackberry Winter: A Novel

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Overview

In 2011, Sarah Jio burst onto the fiction scene with two sensational novels—The Violets of March and The Bungalow. With Blackberry Winter—taking its title from a late-season, cold-weather phenomenon—Jio continues her rich exploration of the ways personal connections can transcend the boundaries of time. 

Seattle, 1933. Single mother Vera Ray kisses her three-year-old son, Daniel, goodnight and departs to work the night-shift at a local hotel. She emerges to discover that a May-Day snow has blanketed the city, and that her son has vanished. Outside, she finds his beloved teddy bear lying face-down on an icy street, the snow covering up any trace of his tracks, or the perpetrator's.

Seattle, 2010. Seattle Herald reporter Claire Aldridge, assigned to cover the May 1 "blackberry winter" storm and its twin, learns of the unsolved abduction and vows to unearth the truth. In the process, she finds that she and Vera may be linked in unexpected ways...

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  • Blackberry Winter
    Blackberry Winter  

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Claire Aldridge is a reporter for the Seattle Herald coping with an emotionally detached husband and the grief of a recent miscarriage. When she awakes one May morning to find Seattle blanketed in snow, she begins to write a piece about the weather phenomenon known as a blackberry winter. Claire soon unearths the story of Vera Ray, a woman whose three-year-old son went missing in a similar snowstorm on the same day nearly 80 years before, in 1933. As Claire digs deeper, she discovers that she and Vera share ties to the wealthy Kensington family, who may be pulling strings and obfuscating Claire’s research in an effort to stop her from uncovering the dark secrets that bind her to Vera. Jio’s newest (after The Bungalow) is a fascinating exploration of love, loss, scandal, and redemption. While astute readers will likely surmise the nature of Claire and Vera’s connection long before the big reveal, the proceedings are nevertheless engaging, with Claire and Vera enticing protagonists. Agent: Elisabeth Weed, Weed Literary. (Nov.)
From the Publisher
Praise for Sarah Jio and her novels:
 
“Jio has become one of the most-read women in America.” —Woman’s World (on Morning Glory)
 
“Delightful and uplifting.” –Historical Novel Society (on Goodnight June)
 
“Linger[s] long after the last page.” –Romantic Times (on The Last Camellia)
                                                                                                                                                    
Eminently readable . . . a tribute to family and forgiveness.” —Booklist (on Goodnight June)
 
“Terrific … compelling … an intoxicating blend of mystery, history and romance.” –Real Simple (on Blackberry Winter)

Praise for The BungalowPulpwood Queens Book Club, Official Selection 2012“A heartfelt, engaging love story set against the fascinating backdrop of the War in the Pacific.” - Kristin Hannah, author of Home Front“Unabashedly romantic . . . thanks to Jio’s deft handling of her plot and characters. Fans of Nicholas Sparks will enjoy this gentle historical love story.” - Library Journal

Kirkus Reviews
Jio's third book combines flashbacks with a contemporary romance and mystery set against a freak late-spring snowstorm in Seattle. Newspaper reporter Claire Aldridge's recovery from a personal setback has not gone well. She's struggling at work, and her marriage to the love of her life, Ethan, is crumbling. As the couple appears to be heading for a breakup, Claire is given an assignment to write a feature story about a sudden snowstorm that blankets Seattle in May 2010. The story's angle is to compare and contrast it to an identical storm that took place on the same day in 1933. While Claire works to find something interesting about the twin storms, she stumbles across the tale of a woman named Vera Ray, whose 3-year-old son, Daniel, disappeared during that 1933 storm. Vera, a decent and beautiful single mother, works at a ritzy hotel cleaning rooms, while trying to feed and clothe her little boy on pennies a day. Down to her last cent and unable to pay her rent, with no one to watch Daniel while she works, Vera leaves him alone in the apartment, but returns only to find him gone. The only clue to his disappearance is Daniel's beloved teddy bear, found in the snow outside her apartment building. Kicked out of her apartment, she reports him missing to police, who dismiss the child as a runaway. The parallel stories of Claire, whose husband's wealthy family owns the paper where they both work, and Vera, a down-on-her-luck beauty who stops at nothing while trying to find her child, are told in a compelling, but ultimately implausible method by former journalist Jio, who incorporates an overabundance of coincidence in this tale, all of which serve only to stretch the novel's believability to the breaking point. Competently written, but the prose runs from saccharin to syrupy. Those willing to overlook a series of implausible coincidences and wade through spoonfuls of sugar to get to the fairy-tale ending will be rewarded. This novel will enchant Jio's fans and make them clamor for her next offering.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780452298385
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 9/25/2012
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 211,308
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Sarah Jio lives with her husband and three children in Seattle, Washington.
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Reading Group Guide

INTRODUCTION

In 2011, Sarah Jio burst onto the fiction scene with two sensational novels—The Violets of March and The Bungalow. WithBlackberry Winter—taking its title from a late–season, cold–weather phenomenon—Jio continues her rich exploration of the ways personal connections can transcend the boundaries of time.

Seattle, 1933. Single mother Vera Ray kisses her three–year–old son, Daniel, goodnight and departs to work the night–shift at a local hotel. She emerges to discover that a May–Day snow has blanketed the city, and that her son has vanished. Outside, she finds his beloved teddy bear lying face–down on an icy street, the snow covering up any trace of his tracks, or the perpetrator’s.

Seattle, 2010. Seattle Herald reporter Claire Aldridge, assigned to cover the May 1 ”blackberry winter” storm and its twin, learns of the unsolved abduction and vows to unearth the truth. In the process, she finds that she and Vera may be linked in unexpected ways...

ABOUT SARAH JIO

Sarah Jio is a frequent contributor to major magazines, including Real Simple, Glamour, Cooking Light,and Redbook, and is also the health and fitness blogger for Glamour.com. She lives in Seattle with her family.Sarah Jio is a frequent contributor to major magazines, including Real Simple, Glamour, Cooking Light, and Redbook, and is also the health and fitness blogger for Glamour.com. She lives in Seattle with her family.

A CONVERSATION WITH SARAH JIO

Q. Emily and Bee from The Violets of March make an appearance in Blackberry Winter. Is it fun for you to circle back to old stories that way? Will we see Claire and Ethan again some day?

Yes! I love plucking characters from previous books and giving them little cameos in future novels. As a reader, I think it’s such a treat when my favorite authors do this, and I get a kick out of it as an author. While my novels are not related or sequential, I do like to think that the worlds in which my characters exist overlap a bit.

Q. You mention in your author’s note that a song by Hilary Kole was your inspiration for the book’s title and for the two blizzards that set the scene in the opening pages. Were there any other inspirations behind the Vera and Claire’s stories?

No particular inspiration for Vera and Claire-they really just came to me so vividly. For both of them, I really dug deep into the emotions of motherhood, and tried to think about how I’d feel if I lost a child. How would it change me? I have to admit, writing this book was quite an emotional journey for me. As a result, this story will always have a very special place in my heart.

Q. You’re a mother yourself. Was it difficult for you to write the scenes depicting Vera’s anguish over her son’s disappearance? Did you find yourself imagining what you might do in the same situation?

Yes, believe it or not I actually cried a bit when I wrote this book (as cheesy as that may sound!). Picture me at my desk typing away with a box of Kleenex at the ready. That was my reality as I delved into the emotions that surrounded Claire and Vera’s personal heartache. Most heart–wrenching for me to write about was the scene in which Vera’s son’s teddy bear is found lying in the snow. My sons are all stuffed animal lovers, and that scene still breaks my heart-even though I wrote it!

Q. What are you working on now?

I’m hard at work on finishing up my fourth novel, The Last Camellia, which will be published by Penguin (Plume) on May 28, 2013. It’s a suspenseful, page–turner that combines a bit of history, mystery, and a sprinkling of romance.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  • The novel is set both in the 1930s and the present day, and the narration switches back and forth between Vera Ray and Claire Aldridge. Why do you think the author chose to set up the narrative this way? What does it lend to the story? How does it help the reader get a better sense of the events of the novel?
  • In the opening pages of the novel, Claire alludes to a “phantom pain” in her abdomen. Did you have a sense of what had happened to her before the details of her accident were revealed? How did learning the truth about what happened to Claire alter your perception of her and Ethan’s relationship? Why do you think the author held back the details of the accident at first?
  • This novel deals closely with the gulf between the rich and the poor, particularly in the 1930s. Were you surprised by the apathy the police demonstrated over Daniel’s disappearance? Is Vera surprised?
  • How would you characterize Claire’s relationship with Dominic? Is it a threat to her relationship with Ethan? Why do you think Claire turns to Dominic instead of her husband initially?
  • Claire and Ethan seem reluctant to talk to one another throughout much of the novel. How does this contribute to the growing distance between them? What finally spurs them both to close the gap?
  • Consider Abby and Caroline. What role do they play in Claire and Vera’s lives? How do the women support one another? Would Claire and Vera have had the strength to do what they needed to do in their lives without Abby and Caroline’s support?
  • What do you make of Vera and Charles’s relationship? Vera leaves because she doesn’t want to be the reason Charles loses all that he has. Do you think if she hadn’t left, they could have stayed together? Do you believe him when he tells her that he wishes she would have let him make that choice for himself?
  • Why does Vera believe that Lon Edwards will help her find her son? Would you have done the same thing in her position? Can you imagine her state of mind when he tells her he won’t help her?
  • How does researching Daniel and Vera’s story allow Claire to heal? How does learning what happened to Vera compel Claire to move forward with her own life?
  • Vera and Claire’s storylines intermingle in many ways. What did you make of the revelation that Charles was a Kensington? In what other ways are Claire and Vera tied to one another?
  • Do you believe that Josephine pointed Vera towards the leaky rowboat? What were her motivations for kidnapping Daniel? Did she believe she was doing the right thing?
  • What did you make of Warren’s revelation? Were there any hints earlier on that might have clued the reader in to this piece of the puzzle?
  • How does the significance of the title come into play at the end of the novel? What does it mean to Claire to have the gardener tell her that blackberry vines “choose souls to protect?” Are you hopeful for Claire and Ethan’s future?
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 128 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(61)

4 Star

(36)

3 Star

(16)

2 Star

(4)

1 Star

(11)

Your Rating:

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 128 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 1, 2012

    Well Done Mrs. Jio

    Sarah Jio's writing is so wonderful, the bond you feel with her characters and the great stories behind them, "Blackberry Winter" is no exception. Such a great story of loss, love, overcoming the unthinkable and searching for truth.

    I felt such compassion for both Charles and Vera and wish that things would have been different for them. The devastation that each endured was heart wrenching.

    Some parts of the novel were a little predictable but I still loved the mystery. This is a very fast read. You will not want to put it down until the last page is turned and then you will want to begin it again.

    11 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 25, 2012

    In Seattle, 1933 and 2011, late winter snowstorms happen on the

    In Seattle, 1933 and 2011, late winter snowstorms happen on the same day , thus beginning a story of two women whose lives seem to intersect in many different ways.

    In 1933, Vera Ray goes off to clean hotel rooms, kissing her three year old son good-bye, hoping he'll be fine sleeping in his bed alone in their apartment. But when she returns, her precious son is missing. She can't seem to find anyone who cares or who can help her. We learn more about how she found herself in these circumstances as the story progresses.

    In 2011, Claire is trying to survive the loss of her newborn son and her failing marriage. Her job as a news reporter sends her on the trail of Vera and her son, Daniel.

    Sarah Jio has constructed a story full of mystery and emotion about mother love, and family relationships. Her characters quickly become very real as the story develops. A wonderful book that is very difficult once you start reading and become more and more involved. A great 'feel good' book in conclusion!

    4 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 22, 2012

    A Must Read!!

    Loved this book from the very beginning. Sarah Jio is my favorite Author. I recommend all of her other books too.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 22, 2012

    My Favorite Book Of 2012...

    This is the second book I've read by Sarah Jio , the first one being The Violets of March, which I really liked, and I must say Sarah Jio has done it again with "Blackberry Winter." Interesting its title is from a late-season, cold-weather phenomenon.

    Seattle, 1933. Single mother Vera Ray kisses her three-year-old son, Daniel, goodnight and departs to work the night-shift at a local hotel. She emerges to discover that a May-Day snow has blanketed the city, and that her son has vanished. Outside, she finds his beloved teddy bear lying face-down on an icy street, the snow covering up any trace of his tracks, or the perpetrator's.

    Seattle, 2010. Seattle Herald reporter Claire Aldridge, assigned to cover the May "Blackberry Winter" storm, that happened on the same day as in 1933. She learns of an unsolved abduction that happened on this day in 1933, and vows to unearth the truth. In the process, she finds that she and Vera may be linked in unexpected ways..

    "Blackberry Winter" is a book that draws the reader right into the story from page one as the "icy wind seeped through the floorboards and I shivered...." It is a story of sadness, maternal love and a mystery that happened 80 years earlier, and is beautifully told, exploring the past to find the satisfying conclusion to the mystery of many years ago.

    This was a fast and emotional read, I didn't want to put the book down until the last page and than I didn't want it to end, I wanted more... but like the old saying goes: "All good things must come to an end!"

    I will be reading more of Sarah Jio's books. I liked this one so much I awarded it 5*****

    4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 30, 2012

    A Wonderful Novel

    Sarah Jio has done it again. Her stories are wonderfully written. She has quickly become one of my favorite authors. Blackberry Winter will not disapoint. It had my attention from the first page and I'll be thinking about these characters long into the future.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 28, 2012

    Q


    Very good. Very smooth uread.

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 4, 2012

    Enjoyable book

    I enjoyed this book a lot. I liked the parallel storyline. It was easy to relate to Claire and what she was going through. It was pretty easy to guess what happened to Daniel early on, but it didn't really affect my interest in the story. That just made me want to read faster. I recommend this book to those that like love stories without any steamy sex scenes. And there wasn't any swearing! I am sure I will read other books bt this author.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 1, 2012

    I loved this book! One of the best I have read this year! A re

    I loved this book! One of the best I have read this year! A real page turner. The author brought the characters to life, and I could feel their emotions through her words. Mystery and romance were weaved beautifully, without fluff. I would definitely recommend this book, and I look forward to reading more Joi books.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 27, 2012

    Wonderful story!

    I just loved this book. I normally do not like a book that jumps back and forth between the past and the present, but this one did not bother me. I totally understand why the author wrote this way and it was due to the massive story line. Great book! I could not put it down. I highly recommend it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 27, 2012

    First time reading this author. fab,fab,fab. This was truly a g

    First time reading this author. fab,fab,fab. This was truly a great story.The only book that I cried( Happy tears)at the end. you really must read

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 28, 2012

    A BIG FARCE

    Got the sample and did expect to buy this book...but the sample contained no book pages to read. Only had reviews and forward of book. How can you even begin to call what this contains a "sample" of the book??? Really unable to rate but had to hit a star in order to submit.

    1 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 28, 2012

    (:

    Sounds so touching should i read it or should i not read it, i aimost cried when i was reading the reviews i hope that Clarie solves the mystery of Veras missing son Daniel

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 28, 2012

    WHATS UP?

    Says 2.99 but then 9.99 on purchase tab? Afraid to buy.

    1 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 28, 2012

    Great sample...not!

    Great sample if you only want to read the reviews and title page. Come on B & N give readers a little credit. If its good we will buy it ,but 11 pages of reviews telling me how great it is followed by a title page is pathetic.

    1 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 12, 2012

    Sara Jio's 3rd book is just as great as the other two!

    Beautifully written as all her books. Must read!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 16, 2014

    It's a fairly interesting story, though the writing is a bit ped

    It's a fairly interesting story, though the writing is a bit pedestrian, and the coincidences are very hard to swallow. Better editing would have helped a lot. 

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 3, 2014

    A friend gave me this book and at first I was hesitant to read

    A friend gave me this book and at first I was hesitant to read it because the cover reminded me of chick lit novels . What a pleasant surprise to find it is a well-crafted, character-driven book that kept my interest. I enjoyed this author's writing and can highly recommend it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 27, 2014

    7th grade chat room &star

    WELCOME!

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  • Posted March 12, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    A Fascinating, Compelling, and Emotional Read!

    An engaging yet compelling quick read, a combination of contemporary romance, historical, and mystery---- bridges the gap between two generations of time and women, as Sarah Jio does so well.

    Claire’s life is not going well (her marriage nor work); she receives an assignment to write a feature story about a sudden snowstorm in Seattle of May 2010. The story’s angle is to compare it to an identical storm which took place on the same day in 1933.

    While Claire works to find something interesting about the twin storms, she stumbles across the tale of a woman named Vera Ray, whose 3-year-old son, Daniel, disappeared during that 1933 storm. Vera, is a single mother, who works at a hotel cleaning rooms, while trying to feed and clothe her little boy on a very low salary. As she was down to her last penny and unable to pay her rent, with no one to watch Daniel while working, she leaves him alone in the apartment, but returns only to find him gone.

    The only clue to his disappearance is Daniel's beloved teddy bear, found in the snow outside her apartment building. Kicked out of her apartment, she reports him missing to police, who dismiss the child as a runaway.

    The similarities and parallel of the two stories –Claire’s husband’s wealthy family owns the paper where they both work--and Vera, stops at nothing while trying to find her child.

    A story of loss, love, and hope--a fascinating and emotional read! I look forward to reading more from this author!

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  • Posted November 7, 2013

    Sarah Jio has the amazing ability to traverse time in a unique a

    Sarah Jio has the amazing ability to traverse time in a unique and distinctive manner.  Blackberry Winter is just such a novel.   It begins during the 1920,s when a young woman fell in love, conceived a child with a man above her class in society, and realized she couldn't survive in his world or he in hers.  In
    1930, their child was three and she was desperately trying to support them.   A terrible snowstorm struck their town in May and she left the three year old home alone.   When she returned he was gone.   And Vera's young life definitely took a turn for the worst.




    The story is told from alternating points of view, Vera the young mother from the thirties and Claire, a journalist with an assignment to write about another cold front and blizzard in May some eighty years later.   Claire lost her firstborn in the eighth month of pregnancy.   During her research, she found the story of the missing boy, Danny and vowed to find what had happened to him and his loving mother, Vera.




    Back in those days, everything was a struggle of class.  If you were poor, the law was not in your corner.   If you were high society, your secrets would be kept and you were safe from investigation.
    Definitely not a time I would have appreciated living in.  Sarah was able to define the character's of these two women who shared the loss of their children.   She developed her characters carefully and exposed their inner strengths, their weaknesses and their dreams.




    This is a story of hope and love that transcends time.  Tears stained my cheeks as I read through this tragedy, especially the last third of the book, where mysteries were brought to light and resolutions occurred.    It is certainly a love story told from a compassionate heart!   


    I am only regretting it took this long to get to read it!   

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