"Sarah Jio's writing is exquisite and engrossing."--Elin Hilderbrand, bestselling author of Silver Girl"
A Most Anticipated Book of Fall 2012" ... "This novel will enchant Jio's fans and make them clamor for her next offering."--Kirkus
"Terrific ... compelling ... An intoxicating blend of mystery, history and romance, this book is hard to put down."--REAL SIMPLE
"Engaging ... enticing ... [A] fascinating exploration of love, loss, scandal, and redemption."--Publisher's Weekly
Praise for The Violets of March:
Library Journal Best of 2011: Core Fiction
“Feed the kids before you settle in with journalist Sarah Jio’s engrossing first novel, The Violets of March. This mystery-slash-love story will have you racing to the end—cries of ‘Mom, I’m hungry!’ be damned.” - Redbook
“A gem . . . True escape fiction that can take you away.” - WGBH-TV
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
One morning, while in the car with my husband and our young sons, an intriguing song came on the radio. I had never heard it before, but I was instantly transfixed by the melody, and the singer's haunting voice. I turned to my husband, who was driving: "This is a beautiful
song!" I exclaimed. "Do you know it?" He shook his head. I glanced at the radio, and the screen read, "Blackberry Winter by Hilary Kole." The title made my heart flutter. As a lifelong Northwesterner, blackberries are special to me. I get nostalgic when I think about the after-dinner walks I took with my parents and siblings during the summers of my childhood. We'd all take bowls and tromp through the woods near our home, scouting for blackberries. My sister and I would eat the majority of them, and the rest would find their way into one of mom's famous pies or cobblers. Summer just wasn't summer without berry-stained fingers.
That day in the car, I pulled out my phone (which, ahem, happens to be a Blackberry
), and emailed myself the name of the song and its artist. I wanted to read the lyrics, but mostly, I wanted to know the origins of the title. What is a blackberry winter?
Later, at home, I sat down at my desk to do some research. I learned that the term is old-fashioned weather jargon for a late-season cold snap--think of plunging temperatures and snowfall in May, just when the delicate white flowers are beginning to appear on the blackberry vines.
I couldn't get the words "blackberry winter" out of my head, and that night, I began to sketch out the concept for this novel. The story came to me quickly and vividly: Vera and Daniel and the little apartment they shared in the 1930s; his beloved teddy bear, lying face-down in the cold snow; Claire and her curious reporter's mind and her own deep pain and grief; snowflakes falling on the spring cherry blossoms.
For the next many months, I lived and breathed Blackberry Winter
. At the heart of this story, for me, were the raw emotions of motherhood. I began writing the novel when I was pregnant with my third son, and I channeled Vera and Claire's pain and often-heartbreaking experiences. I thought a lot about how it would feel to lose a child, and what I would do.
Then, in a heartbreaking turn of events, shortly before I finished the book, one of my dearest friends, Wendi Parriera, lost her two-year-old son to a rare form of brain cancer. It broke my heart to watch her say goodbye to her precious boy, and I wept with her on the phone as she held her son against her chest in the final hours of his life. But, I also saw her strength, and the light in her eye--the one that told me how thankful she is to have been the mother of this beautiful child, and how excited she is to know, with certainty, that she'll be seeing him again, in heaven. Wendi reminds me, always, that motherhood--life--no matter how short, is a gift.
While my characters' challenges are great and their stories tragic, like my dear friend, I like to think that they found their own sense of peace and truth--swirling in a late-season snowstorm and hidden amongst the protective thorns of the blackberry vines.
Thank you for reading. I hope this novel touches your heart in the same way it touched mine.