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Winter Garden [NOOK Book]

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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 pastMeredith 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 ...
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Winter Garden

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Overview


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 pastMeredith 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.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Female bonding is always good for a good cry, as Hannah (True Colors ) proves in her latest. Pacific Northwest apple country provides a beautiful, chilly setting for this family drama ignited by the death of a loving father whose two daughters have grown apart from each other and from their acid-tongued, Russian-born mother. After assuming responsibility for the family business, 40-year-old empty-nester Meredith finds it difficult to carry out her father’s dying wish that she take care of her mother; Meredith’s troubled marriage, her troubled relationship with her mother and her mother’s increasingly troubled mind get in the way. Nina, Meredith’s younger sister, takes a break from her globe-trotting photojournalism career to return home to do her share for their mother. How these three women find each other and themselves with the help of vodka and a trip to Alaska competes for emotional attention with the story within a story of WWII Leningrad. Readers will find it hard not to laugh a little and cry a little more as mother and daughters reach out to each other just in the nick of time. (Feb.)
Library Journal
Middle-aged sisters Meredith and Nina have always felt distanced from their Russian-born mother, Anya. But when their beloved father dies, he leaves them with a wish—for them to become closer to their mother and for Anya to reveal the truth about her past. Meredith's and Nina's troubled relationship with their mother is mirrored in their relationships with men. Meredith has grown apart from Jeff, her childhood sweetheart and longtime husband. And Nina travels the world as a freelance photographer, meeting up occasionally with lover Danny. Things have to fall apart before they get better, so after Jeff leaves Meredith and Nina's work begins to suffer, the sisters spend more time with Anya, who finally reveals more of the fairy tale she had told her daughters in their childhood. It doesn't take long for Meredith and Nina to figure out that this is really the true story of their mother's life in Leningrad during World War II. VERDICT This tearjerker weaves a convincing historical novel and contemporary family drama with elements of romance. It is sure to please fans of Danielle Steel, Luanne Rice, and Nicholas Sparks. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 10/15/09; 400,000-copy first printing; library marketing campaign.]—Karen Core, Detroit P.L.
Kirkus Reviews
A Russian refugee's terrible secret overshadows her family life. Meredith, heir apparent to her family's thriving Washington State apple enterprises, and Nina, a globetrotting photojournalist, grew up feeling marginalized by their mother. Anya saw her daughters as merely incidental to her grateful love for their father Evan, who rescued her from a German prison camp. The girls know neither their mother's true age, nor the answers to several other mysteries: her color-blindness, her habit of hoarding food despite the family's prosperity and the significance of her "winter garden" with its odd Cyrillic-inscribed columns. The only thawing in Anya's mien occurs when she relates a fairy tale about a peasant girl who meets a prince and their struggles to live happily ever after during the reign of a tyrannical Black Knight. After Evan dies, the family comes unraveled: Anya shows signs of dementia; Nina and Meredith feud over whether to move Mom from her beloved dacha-style home, named Belye Nochi after the summer "white nights" of her native Leningrad (St. Petersburg). Anya, now elderly but of preternaturally youthful appearance-her white hair has been that way as long as the girls can remember-keeps babbling about leather belts boiled for soup, furniture broken up for firewood and other oddities. Prompted by her daughters' snooping and a few vodka-driven dinners, she grudgingly divulges her story. She is not Anya, but Vera, sole survivor of a Russian family; her father, grandmother, mother, sister, husband and two children were all lost either to Stalin's terror or during the German army's siege of Leningrad. Anya's chronicle of the 900-day siege, during which more than half a millioncivilians perished from hunger and cold, imparts new gravitas to the novel, easily overwhelming her daughters' more conventional "issues." The effect, however, is all but vitiated by a manipulative and contrived ending. Bestselling Hannah (True Colors, 2009, etc.) sabotages a worthy effort with an overly neat resolution. First printing of 400,000
From the Publisher
"It’s a tearjerker, but the journey is as lovely—and haunting—as a snow filled winter’s night."

People magazine

"Readers will find it hard not to laugh a little and cry a little more as mother and daughters reach out to each other just in the nick of time."

Publishers Weekly

"Winter Garden is Kristin Hannah’s best written and most deeply affecting novel yet."

The Huffington Post

"This tearjerker weaves a convincing historical novel and contemporary family drama..."

Library Journal

"A…searing story with a breathtaking, beautiful ending."

The Seattle Times

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781429938464
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 2/2/2010
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 1,915
  • File size: 823 KB

Meet the Author

Kristin Hannah

Kristin Hannah is the New York Times bestselling author of novels including Night Road, Firefly Lane, and True Colors. She was born in Southern California and moved to Western Washington when she was eight. A former lawyer, Hannah started writing when she was pregnant and on bed rest for five months. Writing soon became an obsession, and she has been at it ever since. She is the mother of one son and lives with her husband in the Pacific Northwest and Hawaii.
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Read an Excerpt

One
2000
Was this what forty looked like? Really? In the past year Meredith had gone from Miss to Ma’am. Just like that, with no transition. Even worse, her skin had begun to lose its elasticity. There were tiny pleats in places that used to be smooth. Her neck was fuller, there was no doubt about it. She hadn’t gone gray yet; that was the one saving grace. Her chestnut-colored hair, cut in a no-nonsense shoulder-length bob, was still full and shiny. But her eyes gave her away. She looked tired. And not only at six in the morning.
She turned away from the mirror and stripped out of her old T-shirt and into a pair of black sweats, anklet socks, and a long-sleeved black shirt. Pulling her hair into a stumpy ponytail, she left the bathroom and walked into her darkened bedroom, where the soft strains of her husband’s snoring made her almost want to crawl back into bed. In the old days, she would have done just that, would have snuggled up against him.
Leaving the room, she clicked the door shut behind her and headed down the hallway toward the stairs.
In the pale glow of a pair of long-outdated night-lights, she passed the closed doors of her children’s bedrooms. Not that they were children anymore. Jillian was nineteen now, a sophomore at UCLA who dreamed of being a doctor, and Maddy—Meredith’s baby—was eighteen and a freshman at Vanderbilt. Without them, this house—and Meredith’s life—felt emptier and quieter than she’d expected. For nearly twenty years, she had devoted herself to being the kind of mother she hadn’t had, and it had worked. She and her daughters had become the best of friends. Their absence left her feeling adrift , a little purposeless. She knew it was silly. It wasn’t as if she didn’t have plenty to do. She just missed the girls; that was all.
She kept moving. Lately that seemed to be the best way to handle things.
Downstairs, she stopped in the living room just long enough to plug in the Christmas tree lights. In the mudroom, the dogs leaped up at her, yapping and wagging their tails.
“Luke, Leia, no jumping,” she scolded the huskies, scratching their ears as she led them to the back door. When she opened it, cold air rushed in. Snow had fallen again last night, and though it was still dark on this mid-December morning, she could make out the pale pearlescence of road and field. Her breath turned into vapory plumes.
By the time they were all outside and on their way, it was 6:10 and the sky was a deep purplish gray.
Right on time.
Meredith ran slowly at first, acclimating herself to the cold. As she did every weekday morning, she ran along the gravel road that led from her house, down past her parents’ house, and out to the old single-lane road that ended about a mile up the hill. From there, she followed the loop out to the golf course and back. Four miles exactly. It was a routine she rarely missed; she had no choice, really. Everything about Meredith was big by nature. She was tall, with broad shoulders, curvy hips, and big feet. Even her features seemed just a little too much for her pale, oval face—she had a big Julia Roberts– type mouth, huge brown eyes, full eyebrows, and thick hair. Only constant exercise, a vigilant diet, good hair products, and an industrial-sized pair of tweezers could keep her looking good.
As she turned back onto her road, the rising sun illuminated the mountains, turned their snowcapped peaks lavender and pink.
On either side of her, thousands of bare, spindly apple trees showed through the snow like brown stitches on white fabric. This fertile cleft of land had belonged to their family for fifty years, and there, in the center of it all, tall and proud, was the home in which she’d grown up. Belye Nochi. Even in the half-light it looked ridiculously out of place and ostentatious.
Meredith kept running up the hill, faster and faster, until she could barely breathe and there was a stitch in her side.
She came to a stop at her own front porch as the valley filled with bright golden light. She fed the dogs and then hurried upstairs. She was just going into the bathroom as Jeff was coming out. Wearing only a towel, with his graying blond hair still dripping wet, he turned sideways to let her pass, and she did the same. Neither one of them spoke.
By 7:20, she was drying her hair, and by 7:30—right on time—she was dressed for work in a pair of black jeans and a fitted green blouse. A little eyeliner, some blush and mascara, a coat of lipstick, and she was ready to go.
Downstairs, she found Jeff at the kitchen table, sitting in his regular chair, reading The New York Times. The dogs were asleep at his feet.
She went to the coffeepot and poured herself a cup. “You need a refill?”
“I’m good,” he said without looking up.
Meredith stirred soy milk into her coffee, watching the color change. It occurred to her that she and Jeff only talked at a distance lately, like strangers—or disillusioned partners—and only about work or the kids. She tried idly to remember the last time they’d made love, and couldn’t.
Maybe that was normal. Certainly it was. When you’d been married as long as they had, there were bound to be quiet times. Still, it saddened her sometimes to remember how passionate they used to be. She’d been fourteen on their first date (they’d gone to see Young Frankenstein; it was still one of their favorites), and to be honest, that was the last time she’d ever really looked at another guy. It was strange when she thought about that now; she didn’t consider herself a romantic woman, but she’d fallen in love practically at first sight. He’d been a part of her for as long as she could remember.
They’d married early—too early, really—and she’d followed him to college in Seattle, working nights and weekends in smoky bars to pay tuition. She’d been happy in their cramped, tiny U District apartment. Then, when they were seniors, she’d gotten pregnant. It had terrified her at first. She’d worried that she was like her mother, and that parenthood wouldn’t be a good thing. But she discovered, to her profound relief, that she was the complete opposite of her own mother. Perhaps her youth had helped in that. God knew Mom had not been young when Meredith was born.
Jeff shook his head. It was a minute gesture, barely even a movement, but she saw it. She had always been attuned to him, and lately their mutual disappointments seemed to create sound, like a high-pitched whistle that only she could hear.
“What?” she said.
“Nothing.”
“You didn’t shake your head over nothing. What’s the matter?”
“I just asked you something.”
“I didn’t hear you. Ask me again.”
“It doesn’t matter.”
“Fine.” She took her coffee and headed toward the dining room.
It was something she’d done a hundred times, and yet just then, as she passed under the old-fashioned ceiling light with its useless bit of plastic mistletoe, her view changed.
She saw herself as if from a distance: a forty-year-old woman, holding a cup of coffee, looking at two empty places at the table, and at the husband who was still here, and for a split second she wondered what other life that woman could have lived. What if she hadn’t come home to run the orchard and raise her children? What if she hadn’t gotten married so young? What kind of woman could she have become?
And then it was gone like a soap bubble, and she was back where she belonged.
“Will you be home for dinner?”
“Aren’t I always?”
“Seven o’clock,” she said.
“By all means,” he said, turning the page. “Let’s set a time.”
Meredith was at her desk by eight o’clock. As usual, she was the first to arrive and went about the cubicle-divided space on the ware house’s second floor flipping on lights. She passed by her dad’s office—empty now—pausing only long enough to glance at the plaques by his door. Thirteen times he’d been voted Grower of the Year and his advice was still sought out by competitors on a regular basis. It didn’t matter that he only occasionally came into the office, or that he’d been semi-retired for ten years. He was still the face of the Belye Nochi orchard, the man who had pioneered Golden Delicious apples in the early sixties, Granny Smiths in the seventies, and championed the Braeburn and Fuji in the nineties. His designs for cold storage had revolutionized the business and helped make it possible to export the very best apples to world markets.
She had had a part to play in the company’s growth and success, to be sure. Under her leadership, the cold storage ware house had been expanded and a big part of their business was now storing fruit for other growers. She’d turned the old roadside apple stand into a gift shop that sold hundreds of locally made craft items, specialty foods, and Belye Nochi memorabilia. At this time of year—the holidays—when train-loads of tourists arrived in Leavenworth for the world-famous tree-lighting ceremony, more than a few found their way to the gift shop.
The first thing she did was pick up the phone to call her youngest daughter. It was just past ten in Tennessee.
“Hello?” Maddy grumbled.
“Good morning,” Meredith said brightly. “It sounds like someone slept in.”
“Oh. Mom. Hi. I was up late last night. Studying.”
“Madison Elizabeth,” was all Meredith had to say to make her point.
Maddy sighed. “Okay. So it was a Lambda Chi party.”
“I know how fun it all is, and how much you want to experience every moment of college, but your first final is next week. Tuesday morning, right?”
“Right.”
“You have to learn to balance schoolwork and fun. So get your lily-white ass out of bed and get to class. It’s a life skill—partying all night and still getting up on time.”
“The world won’t end if I miss one Spanish class.”
“Madison.”
Maddy laughed. “Okay, okay. I’m getting up. Spanish 101, here I come. Hasta la vista . . . ba-by.”
Meredith smiled. “I’ll call on Thursday and find out how your speech went. And call your sister. She’s stressed out about her organic chemistry test.”
“Okay, Mom. I love you.”
“Love you, too, princess.”
Meredith hung up the phone feeling better. For the next three hours, she threw herself into work. She was rereading the latest crop report when her intercom buzzed.
“Meredith? Your dad is on line one.”
“Thanks, Daisy.” She picked up the call. “Hi, Dad.”
“Mom and I were wondering if you could come to the house for lunch today.”
“I’m swamped here, Dad—”
“Please?”
Meredith had never been able to deny her father. “Okay. But I have to be back by one.”
“Excellent,” he said, and she could hear the smile in his voice.
She hung up and went back to work. Lately, with production up and demand down, and costs for both export and transportation skyrocketing, she oft en spent her days putting out one fire after another, and today was no exception. By noon, a low-grade stress headache had crawled into the space at the base of her skull and begun to growl. Still, she smiled at her employees as she left her office and walked through the cold warehouse.
In less than ten minutes, she pulled up in front of her parents’ garage.
The house was like something out of a Russian fairy tale, with its turretlike two-story veranda and elaborate fretwork trim, especially this time of year, when the eaves and railings glittered with Christmas lights. The hammered copper roof was dulled today by the gray winter weather, but on a bright day it shone like liquid gold. Surrounded by tall, elegant poplar trees and situated on a gentle rise that overlooked their valley, this house was so famous that tourists oft en stopped to photograph it.
Leave it to her mother to build something so absurdly out of place. A Russian dacha, or summer house, in Western Washington State. Even the orchard’s name was absurd. Belye Nochi.
White Nights indeed. The nights here were as dark as new asphalt.
Not that Mom cared about what was around her. She got her way, that was all. Whatever Anya Whitson wanted, her husband gave to her, and apparently she’d wanted a fairy-tale castle and an orchard with an unpronounceable Russian name.
Meredith knocked and went inside. The kitchen was empty; a big pot of soup simmered on the stove.
In the living room, light spilled through the two-story rounded wall of windows at the north end of the room—the famous Belye Nochi turret. Wood floors gleamed with the golden beeswax that Mom insisted on using, even though it turned the floors into a skating rink if you dared to walk in stockinged feet. A huge stone fireplace dominated the center wall; clustered around it was a grouping of richly upholstered antique sofas and chairs. Above the fireplace hung an oil painting of a Russian troika—a romantic-looking carriage drawn by matching horses—sailing through a field of snow. Pure Doctor Zhivago. To her left were dozens of pictures of Russian churches, and below them was her mother’s “Holy Corner,” where a table held a display of antique icons and a single candle that burned year-round.
She found her father in the back of the room, alongside the heavily decorated Christmas tree, in his favorite spot. He lay stretched out on the burgundy mohair cushions of the ottoman bed, reading. His hair, what he had left of it at eighty-five, stuck out from his pink scalp in white tuft s. Too many de cades in the sun had blotched and pleated his skin and he had a basset-hound look even when he was smiling, but the sad countenance fooled no one. Everyone loved Evan Whitson. It was impossible not to.
At her entrance, his face lit up. He reached out and squeezed her hand tightly, then let go. “Your mom will be so glad to see you.”
Meredith smiled. It was the game they’d played for years. Dad pretended that Mom loved Meredith and Meredith pretended to believe him. “Great. Is she upstairs?”
“I couldn’t keep her out of the garden this morning.”
Meredith wasn’t surprised. “I’ll get her.”
She left her father in the living room and walked through the kitchen to the formal dining room. Through the French doors, she saw an expanse of snow-covered ground, with acres of dormant apple trees in the distance. Closer, beneath the icicle-draped branches of a fifty-year-old magnolia tree, was a small rectangular garden defined by antique wrought-iron fencing. Its ornate gate was twined with brown vines; come summer, that gate would be a profusion of green leaves and white flowers. Now it glittered with frost.
And there she was: her eighty-something-year-old mother, bundled up in blankets, sitting on the black bench in her so-called winter garden. A light snow began to fall; tiny flakes blurred the scene into an impressionistic painting where nothing looked solid enough to touch. Sculpted bushes and a single birdbath were covered in snow, giving the garden a strange, otherworldly look. Not surprisingly, her mother sat in the middle of it all, motionless, her hands clasped in her lap.
As a child it had scared Meredith—all that solitude in her mother—but as she got older it had begun to embarrass, then irritate her. A woman of her mother’s age had no business sitting alone in the cold. Her mother claimed it was because of her ruined vision, but Meredith didn’t believe that. It was true that her mother’s eyes didn’t process color—she saw only white and black and shades of gray—but that had never struck Meredith, even as a girl, as a reason for staring at nothing.
She opened the door and went out into the cold. Her boots sank in the ankle-deep snow; here and there, crusty patches crunched underneath and more than once she almost slipped. “You shouldn’t be out here, Mom,” she said, coming up beside her. “You’ll catch pneumonia.”
“It takes more cold than this to give me pneumonia. This is barely below freezing.”
Meredith rolled her eyes. It was the sort of ridiculous comment her mother always made. “I’ve only got an hour for lunch, so you’d better come in now.” Her voice sounded sharp in the soft ness of the falling snow, and she winced, wishing she had rounded her vowels more, tempered her voice. What was it about her mother that brought out the worst in her? “Did you know he invited me for lunch?”
“Of course,” her mother said, but Meredith heard the lie in it.
Her mother rose from the bench in a single fluid motion, like some ancient goddess used to being revered and adored. Her face was remarkably smooth and wrinkle-free, her skin flawless and almost translucent. She had the kind of bone structure that made other women envious. But it was her eyes that defined her beauty. Deep-set and fringed by thick lashes, they were a remarkable shade of aqua flecked with bits of gold. Meredith was sure that no one who had seen those eyes ever forgot them. How ironic it was that eyes of such remarkable hue were unable to see color.
Meredith took her mother’s elbow and led her away from the bench; only then, when they were walking, did she notice that her mother’s hands were bare, and turning blue.
“Good God. Your hands are blue. You should have on gloves in this cold—”
“You do not know cold.”
“Whatever, Mom.” Meredith bustled her mother up the back steps and into the warmth of the house. “Maybe you should take a bath to warm up.”
“I do not want to be warm, thank you. It is December fourteenth.”
“Fine,” Meredith said, watching her shivering mother go to the stove to stir the soup. The ragged gray wool blanket fell to the floor in a heap around her.
Meredith set the table, and for a few precious moments there was noise in the room, an approximation of a relationship, at least.
“My girls,” Dad said, coming into the kitchen. He looked pale and slight, his once-wide shoulders whittled down to nothing by weight loss. Moving forward, he put a hand on each woman’s shoulder, bringing Meredith and Mom in close. “I love it when we’re together for lunch.”
Mom smiled tightly. “As do I,” she said in that clipped, accented voice of hers.
“And me,” Meredith said.
“Good. Good.” Dad nodded and went to the table.
Mom brought a tray of still-warm feta cheese corn bread slices, drizzled with butter, put a piece on each plate, and then brought over bowls of soup.
“I walked the orchard this morning,” Dad said.
Meredith nodded and took a seat beside him. “I guess you noticed the back of Field A?”
“Yep. That hillside’s been giving us some trouble.”
“I’ve got Ed and Amanda on it. Don’t worry about the harvest.”
“I wasn’t, actually. I was thinking of something else.”
She sipped her soup; it was rich and delicious. Homemade lamb meatballs in a savory saffron broth with silken egg noodles. If she didn’t exercise extreme caution, she’d eat it all and have to run another mile this afternoon. “Oh, yeah?”
“I want to change that field to grapes.”
Meredith slowly lowered her spoon. “Grapes?”
 
Excerpted from Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah.
Copyright © 2010 by Kristin Hannah.
Published in 2010 by St. Martin’s Press.
All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.

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Reading Group Guide

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.

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 1233 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(729)

4 Star

(284)

3 Star

(134)

2 Star

(53)

1 Star

(33)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 1239 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 6, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    This is an awesome book!!!!

    This was my first time reading Kristen Hannah and I was absolutely mesmerized by this story and the way she portrayed the characters. It was a heartwrenching story of a time in history that changed so many lives and gave us a picture of how it changed a family forever. I was not able to put the book down once I started it and was drawn into the intrigue of what the secret of Anya's life was and what had turned her so cold. Kristen Hannah's storytelling in this novel give us a close decription of the connection between families and how love can prevail. I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a great story and has time to curl up and enjoy this book.

    33 out of 34 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 16, 2012

    I Also Recommend:

    great

    Great story with great likeable characters. The winter garden is Kristin Hannah's best book.

    28 out of 29 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 29, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Another Great Read by Kristin Hannah

    Great book about two sisters who grow up thinking their mother hates them. When their father passes they promise him that they will take care of their mother and make her tell them a childhood fairy tale that she has kept to herself for many years. In doing so they learn who their mother is and much about the women they have become. A very heartwarming read. Kleenex necessary! I love Kristin Hannah's stories. They are always touching!

    27 out of 29 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 10, 2010

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    such a let down

    I have read almost every book Kristin Hannah wrote, and Winter Garden was a disappointment to me. Now, don't get me wrong, I love the historical background work on Anya's life, it was very interesting to see what she went though, and why she was the way she is now. yet the book seem to drag to me, it took about 11 chapters too long to get to the point. The end completely ruined it for me. Way too cheesy!! Reminded me of bad romance novel. Life definately isn't a fairy tale. I also had a hard time figuring out why they had to do to that certain house in Alaska. I had to read that section three times to figure it out. I hope the next book Hannah writes, she goes back to her normal style of writing.

    18 out of 28 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 14, 2010

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    A CAPTIVATING FAIRY TALE!

    In this beautiful book, the reader is brought into the lives of three women. On the bank of the Columbia River, there is a huge house that gives the reader the feel of a fairytale,that is sitting in an ice-covered apple orchard. Living inside are twelve-year-old girl named Meredith Whitson and her sister, Nina. Meredith wants only one thing in life, just as her sister does, to make their mother show some semblance of love and affection toward them. The only kindness their mother shows them is when she tells them fairy tales in the evening before they go to sleep.

    Meredith grows up and marries Jeff and they have two children. Meredith works hard at the apple orchard for her beloved father. She is the responsible one, standing by her father's side and taking care of everyone she knows. But she is constantly sad. She's tried very hard to be the best wife and mother, but the solitude she feels in her heart is breaking her marriage apart. Nina becomes a little wild. Her life is spent as a photo-journalist for magazines like The National Geographic. Wherever there is war,or strife, Nina runs to that place and snaps her photos of human atrocities. Nina, unlike her sister, is constantly running from love, from life, throwing herself into harm's way in order to avoid the past.

    When their father grows old, he begs his two beloved daughters to get to know their mother, to give her a chance. The daughter's make a solemn vow to try and then find themselves back in the house in the apple orchard, coercing their cold-hearted mother into revealing who she really is and why she has hated them all their lives.

    Anya, their mother, is a woman who spends all her time sitting in her small, cold winter garden, on a frost-covered bench full of icicles. She is suffering from a heartbreaking past that she doesn't know how to talk about. She has blamed herself for years for the life she left behind in Russia when she married their father and moved to the States, finding peace in the arms of the man who loved her.

    Together, the three women sit and begin to open up about their lives. Kristin Hannah reveals the full story of one of the fairytales Anya had told the girls as children, centering around a peasant and a prince,unveiliing what she holds deep inside her. This is a woman who has lived in a constant state of regret and remorse, unable to share her secrets to her daughters.


    This is truly captivating and will hold your compete attention until you read the last page!

    9 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 12, 2010

    This is one of the most powerful books on the defining relationship between mothers and daughters that I have ever read.

    Can we ever truly know ourselves until we know our mother's story? This is the question this book asks and answers as we are transported from rural Washington State to Africa to World War II Leningrad and the sweeping beauty of Alaska. Winter lives in their hearts, and their mother, Anya lives in a world of cold white silence, spending hours sitting on a bench in her Winter Garden. Meredith and Nina Whitson lead very different lives: Meredith has stayed at home to raise two daughters and run the family apple orchard while Nina has traveled to Africa to take pictures of strong "warrior" women, spotlighting man's inhumanity to man and the incredible strength it takes to survive war, famine and the ravages of nature. Both are in stable relationships, but there is something lacking in each of them. Meredith is so wrapped up in her duties running the orchard and clinging vicariously to her daughter's college lives that she neglects her marriage to childhood sweetheart, Jay. Nina has been involved with Irish journalist Danny for many years, but her career has always come first.

    When their father suffers a sudden heart attack, he urges his daughters to get their mother to finish the fairy tale she told them as children. Anya's seeming dementia and reluctance to tell the story make it difficult, but Nina's insistence finally pulls the story out of her. On a cruise to Alaska, the two sisters grow closer to each other and for the first time in their lives, closer to the mother who they've never known. Her courage and stocicism in the face of immense loss gives everyone reading it a sense that we can survive almost anything life throws at us. The story didn't end with World War II. The surprises keep coming to the last page of the book. As I read the last word, closed the book and sobbed, I vowed: "I'll never complain about anything ever again!" I will re-read this book every year as a reminder of the strength of the human spirit and the ability of the heart to heal and love.

    6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 11, 2010

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    Enough already!

    The first Kristin Hannah book I read was Firefly Lane. It was such a great book - the first book I ever read that made me cry. I was so excited to read another book by the author. I immediately read about six more books by Kristin Hannah after that and they were each good in their own way. I have to admit though, that I am SO Sick of her using the same ideas in all of her books....I mean, it seems EVERY book has a dead mother, a kid that talks to ghosts and don't even get me started with the setting!!! I mean, could Kristin Hannah please travel somewhere outside of the washington State area - because I am so over it! We get it...marshy rain covered green forests....she could just copy and paste her descriptions of the setting for future books - because I bet I can guess the location!!

    6 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 30, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    What a wonderful book!

    I loved this book! It was a nice escape from everyday life. I learned a lot about what the poor people of Russia really went through during this very difficult time period. The characters were strong and really endured things I can't imagine having to go through. I would recommend this book to everyone! Enjoy~

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 7, 2010

    WINTER GARDEN by KRISTIN HANNAH

    This was my first time reading a book by Kristin Hannah and i must say i absolutely loved WINRER GARDEN. I was on vacation and decided not to go away. So i picked up WINTER GARDEN @ the supermarket spontaneously and did not put down the book for two days. I may have not went away physically but mentally and emotionally i was lost in WINTER GARDEN.

    5 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 4, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Kristin Hannah does it again

    I have read every book that Kristin has written.
    This may be one of the most touching and emotion provoking books that I have recently read.
    Don't won't be surprised if this one becomes a film.
    For daughters and mothers without a doubt!

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 1, 2010

    A must read! Every emotion you have will be in this book.

    This was my first time reading Kristin Hannah's books. I fell in love with this book. It is the type of book when you read the last page you wish there is more and not the ending. I cried, laughed, said the "I can't believe it" out loud. I was reading on the plane on a trip and started crying on the plane, but not for sorrow, but happy tears. When you start to read this book, make sure you have time to finish, because you will not want to put it down! I had to a couple times and couldn't wait till I got back to the book. She is so decriptive with her characters. From beginning to end you will be surprised. How does one think of such a story to write will always amaze me, because this story was more than just fiction. This story could have actually happened, which is just one of the reasons it was an excellent book. It actually had me researching my history on Lenningrad during the war. I am definately going to read her other books.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 2, 2010

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    A 'must' read

    This is one of the best books I've ever read....one of my top five favorites! I picked it up last Saturday and could not put it down. There are two stories within the book....one of the present day, estranged family and one of the mother's trials, tribulations, loves and family as a young girl in war-torn Russia. As the present day family struggles to come together, the telling of the mother's story in Russia brings them all together as a family with a surprise and heart-wrenching ending. You must have the kleenex nearby at the end. The story of the mother's life in Russia is very interesting and heartbreaking at the same time. The 'mother' character is someone I would like to know. This is the first Kristin Hannah book I've read and now I want to read her others. I just hope they are as good.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 23, 2010

    Must read

    Kristin Hannah did a great job in telling this story. Taking a real life historical event and turing it in to a story that bleeds joy, heartache and strength. Russia's history has always been a violent one up until recentally, the fact that she could tell bring historical issues to light in such an uplifing book is remarable. The storry of two daughter learning about their mother's past to explain so much about not only her but also themselves. A woman who can endure so much loss in ones life and still have the strength go on is truely inspiring. To loss one child would be hard enough, but to think that you had lost the other one and the love of your life also in a matter of days would be unbareable, and Hannah really showed the pain she went through. Then wrapping the story up with happiness, love and warmth was the best way to end the story. I will be recommending this to all of my friends.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 21, 2010

    Amazing

    I have to say that I think this book was amazing. I have read several of Kristin Hannah's books. I have really enjoyed the last few. Winter Garden is the kind of book that takes you somewhere completely different than you expect. I highly recommend this book for a read that is unique, detailed, touching...the kind of book you just can't put down.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 20, 2010

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    A GREAT SURPRISE!!!!!

    I finished WINTER GARDEN last night and it was AWESOME!!! We are having our BOOK CLUB over this book tonight and I can't wait to discuss it! I know I will be thinking of the characters in this book often. It was an emotional journey and makes you think of your own life and how fortunate we are to live in the times that we do. It also makes you this of how you would react if you were put in Vera's position.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2010

    Excellent Reading

    LOVED THIS BOOK! It was a beautiful story, I could not put it down. The characters, the setting, the romance, the sorrow, all put together so well. I would highly recommend this to all.

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 9, 2012

    I Also Recommend:

    This book is...moving. It is a beautiful story of love and loss,

    This book is...moving. It is a beautiful story of love and loss, but with a unique twist. It's something I didn't expect, especially from Kristin Hannah whom I have read a few times before. The ending really pulled at my heart strings with Vera and Sasha, but I won't give it away. It's really a story inside of a story, inside of a story. I really do reccomend this book to someone looking for a good read. Be careful though and stick it all the way through, it kind of drags until it really picks up and is a page turner. Well done! IT really is a must-read, especially if you've read Kristin Hannah before, it's much different than her usual style.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 29, 2012

    WOW. I just finished this book in tears. What an amazing story

    WOW. I just finished this book in tears. What an amazing story, weaving history and present times with fluidity. I definitely recommend reading Winter Garden.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 17, 2012

    Outstanding novel!

    I learned so much about the unspeakable terror and poverty that the Russians endured . The author shows clearly how this early experience continues to destroy lives, even after they are clearly out of danger. What a creative way to show charecter development, history , and family relationships ! I highly recommend this book .

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 24, 2011

    Pedestrian and predictable, but comelling

    No text was provided for this review.

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