Monday, November 1, 2010

Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah

Shortly after I started my blog I joined Goodreads. What better way to keep track of the books I read. I love the ability to track my books and I love seeing what my fellow bibliophiles are reading. However, Goodreads has recently added a new dimension to my reading. They send a monthly email with book news and new book suggestions. When something catches my attention it is easy to add it to my future to-read list. Whether I get to the books immediately or not, I have them cached for when I need a suggestion.

A few months ago one of the suggestions was Kristin Hannah’s new novel Winter Garden. Hannah was a brand new author to me; although I have since learned she is quite prolific (which makes me very happy as I love finding good new authors to add to my list). I picked up the book at the school library and read it over the weekend.

What an amazing book. Hannah’s story revolves around a mother and her two daughters upon the death of the father: the glue who holds the family together. The adult daughters are not close to their mother but promise their father they will try to remain close after he dies. Over time the women learn about their mother’s past and what has made her the distant woman she is.

Hannah’s characters are well-rounded: their quirks, foibles, and interests resonate with the childhood she created for them. Both daughters have difficulty with love relationships – albeit in a very different way from one another – because of their upbringing. They are distrustful and shut off, more like their mother than they are willing to admit at the outset. It is easy to believe in the people she has created in her novel.

Moreover, Hannah has done an incredible job researching war torn Leningrad. Her descriptions of Anya’s life in Russia during World War II are amazingly accurate. In the right setting, I would happily use this book in a history class. She brings personality and emotion and horror to an event that is hard to portray accurately in a sterile history setting.

Suffice it to say, I will be looking for more books by Kristin Hannah. Firefly Lane is sitting on my bookshelf and the only reason I didn’t pick it up immediately is I wanted to savor knowing I had such a great book waiting for me. I would strongly recommend Winter Garden to almost anyone!

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