Amazon.com: Customer Reviews: Blackberry Winter: A Novel
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on September 25, 2012
A crazy snowstorm blankets Seattle in May, but it's not the first time. A fluke snowstorm fell in May of 1933 too and the editor of The Herald wants Claire Aldridge to write a feature article about the May storms--about Blackberry Winter.

During Claire's research of the storm of '33, she finds a newspaper article about Vera and her three year old son who went missing. Vera was a young maid at a high end hotel and had left her son home alone at night while she worked. Authorities believed her three year old, Daniel, ran away during the snowstorm. Claire doesn't believe it for a minute and wonders what happened to Daniel? Were mother and son ever reunited?

Claire's own life is in shambles, but this story seems to ignite a fire in her she thought was gone. Can she solve the mystery? Can there be a happily ever after? Can Claire find her way again?
Once again Sarah Jio proves she has the amazing ability to transport her readers into not one, but two stories in two different times.

I fell in love with poor Vera. A young mother alone in the world struggling to make ends meet. As I read along, I was cheering Claire on wanting her to hurry and solve the mystery of Daniel. I wanted a happy reunion! It wasn't just me who wanted the mystery solved, but it was as if Mother Nature herself was demanding resolution with the return of the Blackberry Winter.

Claire too has suffered a devastating loss. Her marriage is on the brink. For the first time in a long while, Emily begins to come alive but it just might be too late for her old life.
If you read Sarah's first book The Violets of March, you'll be as thrilled as I was to learn Emily and Jackson make an appearance in Blackberry Winter.

While reading, I had numerous "goosebump" moments! Love those. By the end of Blackberry Winter I wasn't crying...I was sobbing. I was truly touched. Not only is Blackberry Winter my new favorite book by Sarah Jio, it's my new all time favorite book. I love how I felt so connected to these characters. I really can't imagine someone not loving this book. I wish I didn't have so many other books to read, because I want to sit down and read it again.
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VINE VOICEon September 25, 2012
As a reporter for the Seattle Herald, Claire Aldridge will stop at nothing in order to get the job done. Now if only she could figure out how to make use of that tenacity to resolve the issues in her marriage. Married to Ethan Kensington, the managing editor of the newspaper, their relationship is more than just a union between two lovers. It's a balancing act between business and pleasure which has become a very challenging situation for both to handle.

Back in 1933, single mom Vera Ray experiences many of the same insecurities in her personal relationships as Claire. Rearing a three-year-old boy during the Great Depression is harrowing, especially having to leave him alone while working the nightshift at a grand hotel. One evening in May, an unforeseen late-season snow storm blankets the city. Upon Vera's return from work, she discovers her son Daniel is missing.

May 2011, an unseasonal winter storm hits Seattle and Claire has been assigned to cover this "blackberry winter" phenomenon. Thankful for the diversion from her personal woes, Claire jumps in focusing her energy on this amazing topic. While researching the piece, the story of Daniel Ray's unsolved abduction comes across Claire's desk. Feeling a mysterious connection to Vera Ray, she vows to find the truth behind baby Daniel's disappearance.

Blackberry Winter is the third novel by the superbly talented writer Sarah Jio. Her gift of adeptly connecting the past with the present to create such a poignant story sets her apart as a truly noteworthy author. By sharing her own personal story in the Author's Notes, divulging to her readers the meaning of "Blackberry Winter," she forges an everlasting bond between her tale and this uncommon weather event. Just like the rarity of a spring snow storm, a novel such as this only comes along once in a lifetime.
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on October 11, 2012
I downloaded this novel to my Kindle after a recommendation in a magazine (can't recall which) sparked my interest. I love a good flip-flop back and forth in time mystery novel. As a mother, I was drawn to the story of the disappearance of a little boy in the 1930s and the present-day reporter who would solve the case. LOVE this idea, but this novel was so disgustingly predictable that I quit reading it. I have probably thrown down maybe 10 books over the years that I refuse to read any further (and I have read a lot of books), this was one of them. The storyline could have been used to the full advantage, but it's not. It's trite and overused and formulaic and just unbelievable as the "mysterious" pieces keep falling into place. The reporter just seems to get every clue handed to her, she hardly has to dig. She just turns up for coffee at the place where the boy and his mother lived in the 1930s. She happens upon clues so easily, there's no mystery, no suspense. If you're a heavy reader, you'll see through this one in no time flat. Disappointing.
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on October 8, 2012
When I first read the plot description on this book, I felt it sounded like a good read. I'm not familiar with the author, but I gave it a shot. Honestly, it was too contrived to be at all believeable. the plot would go along and then another coincidence...then another...then another. It really felt too fake for my taste.

I really thought tying a current early May storm in Seattle to a storm almost 100 years ago to the day was a very interesting plot. But then the coincidences start and the contrived events, misunderstandings, characters who are adults but act more like teens, etc. Don't these people ever TALK to one another? I know the main couple had a tragedy, but a year later they still don't, won't talk about it.

Couldn't recommend this. I took it with me on a trip and was glad I had other books with me, too.
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on September 25, 2012
Fantastic book!! LOVE, MYSTERY, Seattle,Bainbridge Island, 2 stories running at the same time, but separated by decades.
Sarah's way of telling a story is so amazing as one ends up on the pages, with the "characters", walking, smelling the scents, crying tears of sadness and joy, seeing the colors and becoming one with the story. I really enjoyed this book as the journey was so incredible. I couldn't put it down and read it straight through!!
I then picked blackberries and made a cobbler, and a cup of tea, of course!
Sarah Jio has done it again and we are SOOO lucky to have her writing and releasing books so quickly!
Thank you Sarah!
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on September 25, 2012
Wow. Powerful read. I had read half the book in one sitting and then didn't want to pick it up again until I could finish it all at once!!! Amazing storytelling of Vera and Claire, one from the 1930s and one from the present time. Both women share a bond and the author embraces them in their fragile states and makes them strong again. Absolutely beautiful writing - sad story filled with secrets and twists and thankfully, closure in the end.
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on September 25, 2012
Two stories with years separating them are more intertwined than one might think...

May 1, 1933...
Vera Ray works the nightshift as a maid at a hotel in Seattle. A snow storm has blown in during the night; strange with how late in the year it is. When she kisses her three year old son Daniel goodbye she doesn't know that when she returns he won't be there waiting for her.

'Two snowstorms, sharing one calendar date, separated by nearly a century...'

May 2, 2010...
Claire wakes to find snow is falling in Seattle. Snow this late in the year is known as a Blackberry Winter and it rarely happens, but this happened once before many, many years ago.

Vera's story was one of immense sorrow: the loss of her only child. The obvious pain she suffers as a result was vivid and heartbreaking. The story switches back and forth between past and present but I was most intrigued by this back story, the mystery surrounding it, and how we're slowly given bits and pieces of the puzzle. The mystery itself may have been a bit coincidental at times but didn't end up diminishing my overall (positive) opinion. Claire is also living her own heartbreak as her relationship with her husband is crumbling and she doesn't have any idea where to start to fix it. It was hard accepting Claire's reluctance to work at her relationship at first until you find out the bigger picture regarding why their relationship started to crumble in the first place.

A definite page-turner and one that I enjoyed immensely. Blackberry Winter is an heartwarming story that at first glance appears to be hidden under a mountain of sadness with no hope in sight. As the story continues, the two stories slowly start coming together, questions become answered, and realization dawns at the immensity of what occurred so many years ago.
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on October 2, 2012
Story Description:

Plume|September 25, 2012|Trade Paperback|ISBN: 978-0-452-29838-5

In 2011, Sarah Jio burst onto the fiction scene with two sensational novels - The Violets of March and The Bungalow. With Blackberry 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...

My Review:

Blackberry Winter is a riveting page-turner that you won't be able to put down until you've turned the last age and dabbed your eyes for the last time.

The story is told in alternating chapters between Vera Ray from 1933 and Claire Aldridge from 2010.

May 1, 1933 the day dawns with a snow blizzard that is threatening to shut down the city of Seattle. Vera Ray and her 3-year-old son, Daniel, live alone above a bar. Vera works as a maid at a fancy hotel but she works nights and cannot take Daniel with her forcing her to leave him home alone, tucked into his bed. Of course, this breaks Vera's heart but she has no choice as she's already three weeks behind in the rent and her landlord, Mr. Garrison is a miserable sod.

May 2, 2010 Claire Aldridge receives a frantic phone call early in the morning from her boss, Frank. Claire is a journalist for the Seattle Herald and Frank wants Claire to write a story about the blizzard that is now battering Seattle. Claire isn't terribly excited at first as she wonders how she is going to write a headline story about snowmen and snowballs. Then Frank alerts Claire to the fact that a snow blizzard exactly like this one took place on the same day 80 years ago. He wants a 6,000 word story and wants it by Friday. Claire has her work cut out for her.

Vera tucks Daniel into his bed with his favourite teddy bear, kisses him good-night and tells him she'll see him in the morning. When she returns home, 3-year-old, Daniel is nowhere to be found. He is gone! The only thing found is Daniel's precious teddy bear lying in the snow behind the apartment building. The police are called but fluff the whole thing off saying, Daniel is a runaway and that he'll come home when he gets hungry.

Claire not only has a great deal of research to do now for her story but she is also coping with a heartbreak of her own which we don't find out about until a little ways into the story which keeps you reading because you want to know so bad.

I loved both Claire and Vera, but as a mother myself, my heart totally went out to Vera in this story. The lack of police help, I believe, was due to the fact that Vera was a poor, single Mom. Vera will do anything to find Daniel and soon finds herself in some predicaments that she'd never, ever have gotten involved in had this not happened to her.

Claire meets some new friends during her research who go a long way in helping her solve this crime that took place some 80 years prior.

Blackberry Winter is a heartwarming story but with two sad story lines that Sarah Jio handled with finesse and the uncanny ability to make the reader feel as though they were part of the story. I'll definitely be touting the merits of this novel to all who will listen. Well done!!
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on January 31, 2013
SPOILER ALERT

First of all, Sarah Jio is not that good of a writer. I agree with someone else who rated her about high-school level. The vocabularly is weak, the dialogue is unbelievable, it's of the quality that would usually have me putting the novel aside and never finishing it.

However, I enjoyed the plot and the "mystery" enough to continue reading, although I think I should credit my own fascination with historical mysteries that transcend into modern-day investigation more than any skill on her part. The mystery part is laughable, it makes itself known as soon as all the characters and their behavior are introduced. That being said, I still enjoyed watching the narrator piece it together.

Now for my gripes. In fact, the list in my head is long enough that I just changed my rating from 3 to 2 stars.

Clair and her husband, Ethan. They are madly in love, they suffer the loss of their almost full-term baby, and hence they are falling apart. All believable, I suppose. They are drifting, drifting, almost gone...and then Ethan tells her in about two sentences that he wants to try again, he still loves her. BOOM! Back to madly in love in the blink of an eye. Really?! That's all it took?! And yet NEITHER of you tried that in the agonizing months leading up to his short-lived departure. That was a head-shaker for me.

The maddeningly-slow reveal of what misfortune befell Clair and Ethan. We KNOW it has to be something baby related, probably a miscarriage. I will admit the actual event was different enough to be a little surprising, but the sluggish, WAY-overused technique was so annoying that I wanted to tell the author, "Well, if you don't want to tell me, then never mind, I don't want to know!"

Ok, the blackberry shoots in the cemetery. This irritated me. I grew up in Seattle, I go back all the time because my entire family lives there. Blackberry bushes are EVERYWHERE. They are an invasive species from the Himalayans growing along every road, every vacant lot, everywhere, choking out native plant life with their unrelenting thorniness. They are nothing special, trust me, just the opposite. So a cemetery worker saying that in 40 years he has never seen a blackberry bush try to grow there is just ludicrous. In fact, I would imagine he would be constantly fighting them off. In any case, he certainly would not be allowing the "precious" little sprig to sit there and grow. In Seattle, blackberry bushes are considered a weed and this elegant cemetery for wealthy citizens would never tolerate unsightly, thorny bushes growing wild across their loved ones' graves. My mouth kind of gaped a little while reading that section. Jio is from Seattle, she knows.

Now to Vera:

Wow, I might have to change my review to a 1. SOOOO many things.

First of all, her breaking up with the love of her life. A kind, generous, sweet, handsome man who cares so little about his social standing and the opinions of his aristocratic family that he eagerly courts and proposes to a poor, uneducated woman far below his social standing. She is expecting his child. And yet, faced with an awkward dinner at his parents' house and a threat from his evil sister, she is immediately telling him she can't be with him and hiding from his frantic calls behind a tree. She goes on to live in complete and utter poverty, scrubbing her hands raw for pennies while being threatened with eviction (unless she allows him to rape her, that is). Do I have to point out how absurd this whole situation is? It's just VERY unbelievable that she would turn her back on this man who seemingly loves her to pieces, and for what? So he can keep his wealth? Even if she did believe his sister's threats, she would have certainly at least TALKED to Charles about it before just dumping him. I get that their separation was an integral part of the storyline, but at least make it believable.

So...*sigh*...now Vera is living in abject poverty, barely able to provide food for herself and her son, about to be evicted. She is forced to leave the child alone in the apartment while she goes out to work all night. Hey, here's a thought! Why don't you and your best friend get an apartment TOGETHER?! And who is taking care of 3 ½ year old Eva while her mother is out at the factory during the night in question? Apparently, in the 30's, children of the age of three are able to play in city parks unsupervised and, most astoundingly, hang on to vivid memories from that time up to 80 years later. Amazing!

Vera's son goes missing and she is frantic, running around the city screaming his name, searching night and day. A week later when best friend asks her if she's coming back to work, she reluctantly says, "I guess I have to," and then reveals she has not yet informed her supervisor of why she has missing work the past week. Seriously? So in all her desperate searching, she failed to stop by her place of employment to, I don't know, CHECK if he had been there (after all, he did spend the night there just a couple days before, and that's where his mother was at the time he went missing, seems like a no-brainer to me), and to, while she's there, mention to the supervisor that she needs a few days off. Well, this is the Depression after all. Jobs are a dime a dozen, right?! Oh no, she just didn't say a word and then is flummoxed when the supervisor tells her the job is gone.

Wow, this review is getting long and I still have more.

Vera shows up in desperation at Charles family's house (in which he never lived while she knew him) and tells him that her little boy has vanished. Yet the same tenacity that had her prostitute herself for help fails her in the face of his new wife and she leaves without explaining more or asking for his help, despite the fact that she knows full well of his caring, generous nature, his affection for her, his standing in the community...I guess she felt getting her son back wasn't as important as preserving his happy life. *another sigh*

Apparently Charles forgets that Vera had JUST said that her little boy had vanished, placing no connection between the loud crying child upstairs (audible all the way outside), and her predicament.

I may seem cynical, but come on. All of these things are just too much. I have to change it to a 1.
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on October 12, 2012
As Elin Hilderbrand says it perfectly, in her blurb on the cover of the book, "Sarah Jio's writing is exquisite and engrossing." Sarah Jio is an expert at writing in two different time periods, alternating between both. She portrays each time period phenomenally on it's own, but links both in remarkable ways, like puzzle pieces that align perfectly with each other.

Even though I'm not a mom yet, I could feel the powerful love that Vera had for Daniel, the love that a mother has for her child. As much as I fell in love with Vera, it was heartbreaking to see her struggling to raise her child, on her own, with barely anything. But of course I was cheering her on wanting desperately for her to find her sweet Daniel.

Even though Claire's life has gone south, there's something inside of her that wants to break free and grab onto something to help her. It turns out that the "blackberry winter" storm that has plagued the town does exactly that.

I loved how both sets of characters (Claire and Ethan and Vera and Charles) are almost the same but from two different periods. Vera and Claire are not from wealthy families, but Charles and Ethan are.

With each book that Sarah writes, she keeps outdoing herself. Each time I get my hands on a new book by Sarah, I ask myself "how can she top the last one?" Well somehow she always does.

"Blackberry Winter" is an enchanting mystery and love story that grabs the reader's attention right from the beginning, and keeps it to the very end. I wanted time to stand still so I could read the book in one sitting. I had goose bumps for almost the entire time reading and was captivated by each page. The book has been officially nominated as part of my top 2012 reads...this kind of makes sense because it's number 27 on the New York Times Bestseller list! All I can say is this would make a phenomenal movie! I promise you will not be disappointed, so grab your copy ASAP!
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