In the Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah, sisters Meredith and Nina Whitson deal with the loss of their beloved father and then struggle to get to know their mother better. They have always found their mother to be cold and seemingly unloving. To fulfill their father’s dying wish, their mother proceeds to tell them a fairy tale that they knew well from their childhood. However, they never heard the story all the way through to the end. Although the fairy tale is told in fits and starts, more details are added as their mother continues with the story. What they learn is not what they expected to hear as their mother recounts her own story of a harrowing past life in war-torn Leningrad. Sadly, they learn that there is a reason for their mother’s distance and “coldness”.
This novel was an interesting character study of a mother and her daughters. It detailed how repressing the truth can have lifelong consequences for everyone. I had a hard time feeling any compassion for or connection with Anya, the mother, until she really got into the telling of the fairy tale. The story slowed down a bit for me 2/3 of the way through, and I put the book aside for a few days. I picked it up again, and once the details of the fairy tale’s ending began to fall into place, I couldn’t put it down until I reached the conclusion.
This is an older novel (from 2010), but it’s the first Kristin Hannah book I’ve read, and I will definitely pick up more of her books. It was worth sticking with it until the ending.