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4.3 out of 5 stars
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on February 13, 2012
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Resisting the urge to skip ahead so I could find out what happens was a serious problem with this novel. Even though there are a number of stories told in this novel; Meredith's struggles with her marriage, Nina's struggles with love and family, Anya's struggles with her past, and Veronika's story in Russia, everything flows so smoothly.

What starts out as a story of three struggling women turns into a beautiful story... one that literally brough tears to my eyes. I found that this book allowed me to laugh, cry, yell and hurt and a book that does that is a very powerful book.

Overall, this book needs to be read... it deserves a place on anyone's bookshelf! Well done Kristin Hannah, I will be reading many more of your books in the future!
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on June 30, 2013
It has been a long time since I have read a book so poignant. Winter Garden is going right to the top of my 'recommend to everyone' list. I have always been suspect of symbolism in novels but in my mind, if no where else, Anya struck me as the personification of Russia during Stalin's rule, through the siege of Lenningrad and possibly even today. She seemed cold and bitter to those who didn't know her but had a core passion and strength that only became apparent as her story was told.

As Anya's story is told and as her daughters, Nina and Meredith, come to know and admire their mother, the reader is drawn into the era, the pain and the strength that are portayed. Anya has trouble forgiving herself for choices that were forced upon her and refuses to see in herself the power and fortiude that make her a survivor.

I loved the characters. I loved the story. I love the writing style of Kristin Hannah. This was the first of her books I have picked up but it will not be the last. Winter Garden is a story that has become a part of me.
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on March 6, 2012
I had to put this book down only because I had to go to work between turning the pages. I am NOT an avid reader, but my mom is. Last year while I was in Florida visiting my mom and dad, mom handed me this book! I'm sooo glad she did! I love this tangled web that completes a family story. I have always been facinated by the point of view that different family members have of each other - more scientifically we call it birth order ... but Kristin Hannah does a remarkable job of reminding us that there is more behind every person's eyes AND that each and every person deserves a chance to tell their story AND have it heard. I was 'moved' and struck by the fact that the father knew how important his wife's story was. As young women, we don't always 'tolerate' each other or our mothers, but this story aught to be read by every teenager (daughter), who is 'ready' to sit down and try to discover their own mother! It is incredibly well written and I will pass this book on to any daughter who will read it. Although not all of us carry this kind of pain nor strength, we all carry our own crosses. I was inspired by this book and I learned a lot about myself and my need to really 'hear' people's stories.
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on June 29, 2012
This book was an awesome book. I love Kristin Hannahs books. I was in Fort Lauderdale and was looking to find some books to relax with. I came across Night Road, oh I couldn,t put it down, and since then, I am reading all her books. She really brings her characters to life, so much so where I was constantly thinking about the storyline, and what was going to happen next, really just like a good movie where you still think about it after you have seen it.

It depicts a great storyline between a mother and her daughters, and the secret that is kept.

I would recommend this book to anyone that loves a good story. Its hard to explain really, but you will understand once you start reading, you will become so engrossed it, I can,t wait until she writes more books.

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on April 4, 2013
I could not put the book down and could not wait to hear Anya's story. I honestly can not think of one negative thing about this book and would recommend it to anyone who doesn't mind some history, crying, laughter and a little mystry. Well done Kristin Hanna. I will be reading more of your books.

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on April 21, 2012
Kristen Hannah tells the story of a mother living two lives, first a harrowing life in German invaded St. Petersburg struggling to protect two young children, contrasted with a comfortable life in modern day Yakima, Wa. - yet as distanced from the two children from her second family as she was close to the first two children. A tale of endurance, of a comeback after being pushed to the absolute breaking point. Excellent!
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on June 14, 2013
I was hooked on this book and the more I read felt I was being "pulled into the fairytale". I love how Kristin Hannah can write a book within a book. I thought this book was extremely poignant. There was so much of a story, I love the inter-reationship descriptions of her characters. I have read almost all of Hannah's books. I love the way she unravels a story.
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on May 3, 2016
I like this book from the beginning. The character of the two daughters drew me right in. I had a hard time liking the mom who was so cold; however; I knew there would be a story as to why she was this way.i found the book could have been shorter. I skipped over a lot of the fairy tale part. I always enjoy the history of Russia ....
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on September 17, 2015
a very painful emotional story to read...but one that you cannot put down...
a mother walks her daughters through another life...a life embedded with starvation and death..
a young family pulled apart through the depravations of war...
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"Mother, you had me, but I didn't have you.
I wanted you but you didn't want me,
So I got to tell you, Goodbye, goodbye." -- John Lennon, 1970

Kristin Hannah, a gifted chick lit author (and I LOVE chick lit) has done it again. She has written a compelling story, set in Washington State and created a cast of memorable and plausible characters. In short, Kristin Hannah is a genius. It's as simple as that.

The story opens in 2001, when sisters Nina, (b. 1963) and Meredith (b. 1960) are facing major life changes. Nina, a photojournalist is in Africa doing a photo shoot while Meredith remains near the home she grew up. She, her husband Jeff and two daughters Jillian, 19 and in med school and Maddie, 17 all pitch in to help Meredith's parents. Her father was at the end of his life when the story opens and the sisters have a poor relationship with their mother. Meredith traces the turning point in their bad relationship to an incident involving a play she and Nina put on in 1972 when they were 12 and 9 respectively. At that point, Meredith vows that she will never listen to another fairy tale their mother tells EVER again.

"Children, don't do what I have done, I couldn't walk and I tried to run.
So I got to tell you, Goodbye, goodbye. Mama don't go, Daddy come home." -- John Lennon, 1970 from "Mother"

This story is far deeper than the snow, which is used metaphorically as well as realistically throughout the story. Nina and Meredith's mother is from Russia and the wonderful references to Russian food and culture make for a culturally sharing experience.

The sisters' father eventually dies, but after he extracts a promise from his daughters to get their mother to tell one particular story in toto. They promise, but keeping it is what makes up for a large part of the story. They have their work cut out for them.

Meredith is the efficient, take charge personality, a quality that was probably inculcated in her from an early age as being the older sister. Nina, having written getting love from their mother as a lost cause embarks upon a successful career that requires her to travel for extensive periods of time. She has a loving boyfriend who is good to her and good for her, as Meredith's husband Jeff is a good man.

The sisters travel in different orbits - Meredith as trying to do everything she can for her widowed mother, even making some very difficult decisions. Nina, globe-trotting and rising in her career only to hit some rough spots when their father died returns to the family homestead to make equally difficult, yet very different decisions.

Meredith and Nina examine their approaches to adult relationships and both wonder why their father Evan married their mother Anya. They both had warm, loving relationships with their father (the apple orchard is a symbol of fruitful love as they have an apple orchard on the family property) and the snow is a metaphor for their mother, whom the girls understandably feel is cold and distant as an Arctic tundra. Her blue eyes, unlike those of a Siberian husky, radiate coldness as opposed to a loving, playful side. Anya is very much like an Arctic tundra.

Both sisters have more in common than they realized. Meredith's husband feels rebuffed by Meredith and I just loved it when he challenged her by saying he was on her "to do list" because she appeared to approach everything in life as a challenge to be checked off. Nina, whose boyfriend Danny is a very loving man wants her to make a commitment to him, yet she teeters on the precipice of doing just that.
knows why Evan married Anya, nor why Anya seems to hate them.

The girls' father knows a very different Anya and a story that is far deeper and one that travels much futher than either daughter can imagine. A loving, tolerant man, Evan understands Anya and spent his life trying to encourage the girls to do likewise, depsite her aloof demeanor. The promise he extracts from his daughters does change the world and the tundra starts to thaw....

"Little darling, I feel that ice is slowly melting.
Little darling, it seems like years since it's been clear.
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun, and I say it's all righ, it's all right." -- George Harrison, 1969

Anya's story is the foundation on which the story eventually rests. Without giving anything away, let's just say this novel is one that is well worth the trek through the tundra and well worth every page. The story the girls finally hear has a profoundly meteoric impact on their lives and their view of the world. It closes with an epilogue of the characters in 2010, which leaves readers with a sense of fullness and satisfaction. John Lennon's classic "Mother" and also the George Harrison classic "Here Comes the Sun" underscore this book.

This is truly an outstanding novel about relationships and how secrets divide and are usually uncovered over time. What makes this book special is the development of the characters; their compelling story and the writing itself. I highly recommend this book.
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