Blackberry Winter: A Novel

Blackberry Winter: A Novel

by Sarah Jio

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781101603499
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 09/25/2012
Sold by: Penguin Group
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 191,735
File size: 1 MB
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Sarah Jio is the #1 international, New York Times, and USA Today bestselling author of eight novels. She is also a longtime journalist who has contributed to Glamour, The New York Times, Redbook, Real Simple, O: The Oprah Magazine, Cooking Light, Woman’s Day, Marie Claire, Self, and many other outlets, including NPR’s Morning Edition, appearing as a commentator. Jio lives in Seattle with her three young boys.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

Praise for The Bungalow
Pulpwood 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

Reading Group Guide


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...



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 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 She lives in Seattle with her family.



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.


  • 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?
  • Customer Reviews

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    Blackberry Winter: A Novel 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 128 reviews.
    VirtuousWomanKF More than 1 year ago
    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.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    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.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Loved this book from the very beginning. Sarah Jio is my favorite Author. I recommend all of her other books too.
    Ann40AW More than 1 year ago
    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*****
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    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.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    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.
    nanaPA More than 1 year ago
    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
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Very good. Very smooth uread.
    RonnaL More than 1 year ago
    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!
    HudsonGirl More than 1 year ago
    Beautifully written as all her books. Must read!
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Huge fan! Authors writing is beautiful! You will not be disappointed with any of her books.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    mamalovestoread22 More than 1 year ago
    Heartwarming, beautifully written love story, that will tug at your heart strings!
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    roadtrip More than 1 year ago
    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. 
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    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.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    quaintinns More than 1 year ago
    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!
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    MissBethBC More than 1 year ago
    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!   
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    LeelaF More than 1 year ago
    Blackberry Winter I was captured by the very first paragraph and I remained engrossed to the very last sentence. This story is so moving and told in a way that tugged at my heartstrings and brought me to tears, both sad and sweet. I was completely transported from one era to the other, making me feel like I was IN the story with the characters, which can only be accomplished by a gifted author. Kudos to Sarah Jio for caring, and making her readers feel like they're "living" in the story. Blackberry Winter is a haunting, beautiful story about a mother's love, as well as a love for family, friendship, and marriage. It begins with love and weaves in mystery, hope, disappointment, kindness, unthinkable loss, selfishness, and then concludes with a love; a timeless love between mother and child. Sighhhhh. I was also inspired by the generosity of certain characters. After reading this story, I recognized the hardships of someone less fortunate than I. So much so, I acted on that in a way that touched me just as much as (if not more) than the recipient. I checked this book out of the library, and will be purchasing a copy for my personal library. A story to be talked about and shared with others. Beautiful, beautiful story.
    BeachRead245 More than 1 year ago
    Thank you to Penguin and Netgalley for this copy of Blackberry Winter. I was given this in exchange for an honest review. Sarah Jio has another great story! Synopsis: Vera and Claire have one thing in common they have both lost children. One day in the present Claire a reporter is asked to write a story for the Seattle Herald about the last Blackberry Winter in 1933. There was one major event where a child went missing. While Claire investigates this story she is also dealing with a husband who is not really present in her life. We also meet Vera the mother of the missing boy back in 1933. Part of this story is told by Vera as she shares what happened during that winter. What happened to Vera? What happened to the little boy? Will finding the answers help Claire to move on? My Thoughts: I liked this story and wanted to see how it turned out. I had a hard time liking the character of Claire initially. The author did a great job conveying her sadness to the readers. I also was heartbroken for Vera and her loss. The plot was what got most of my interest. I wasn’t quite sure how it would turn out. Ms. Jio is developing into quite a storyteller. I have not experienced loss like both these mothers did. I hope to know what it is like to have a family in my future. I do understand fighting for what is right and fighting for the right to tell a story that needs to be told. One aspect that is true about our culture is the class divide between the wealthy and the poor. These distinctions are not as true today as they were in the past.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    This is one of the best books i have read in a long time