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Winter Garden Hardcover – February 2, 2010

4.5 out of 5 stars 1,468 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Female bonding is always good for a good cry, as Hannah (True Colors ) proves in her latest. Pacific Northwest apple country provides a beautiful, chilly setting for this family drama ignited by the death of a loving father whose two daughters have grown apart from each other and from their acid-tongued, Russian-born mother. After assuming responsibility for the family business, 40-year-old empty-nester Meredith finds it difficult to carry out her father's dying wish that she take care of her mother; Meredith's troubled marriage, her troubled relationship with her mother and her mother's increasingly troubled mind get in the way. Nina, Meredith's younger sister, takes a break from her globe-trotting photojournalism career to return home to do her share for their mother. How these three women find each other and themselves with the help of vodka and a trip to Alaska competes for emotional attention with the story within a story of WWII Leningrad. Readers will find it hard not to laugh a little and cry a little more as mother and daughters reach out to each other just in the nick of time. (Feb.)
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From Booklist

The Whitson family is rocked by the sudden death of patriarch Evan, a warm, loving man who doted on his two adult daughters, Meredith and Nina, and his reserved Russian wife, Anya. Meredith, who runs the family business, and Nina, a photojournalist whose job takes her to war zones around the world, have never been able to connect with their cold, forbidding mother. When Anya begins to act strangely, Meredith thinks she belongs in a nursing home, but Nina decides to try to fulfill her father’s dying wish and get her mother to tell her and Meredith the elaborate fairy tales she used to share with them. Anya is initially reluctant, but once she begins, Nina realizes these tales are actually the story of Anya’s life in Stalinist Leningrad. Meredith and Nina decide to attempt to uncover the truth about their mother’s tragic past in the hope of understanding her, and themselves. Though the novel starts off fairly maudlin, it evolves into a gripping read, although it’s a tearjerker. Hannah’s previous books, including Firefly Lane (2008) and True Colors (2009), are tailor-made for book clubs, and her audience should find plenty to discuss in this equally enthralling entry. --Kristine Huntley
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 394 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; First Edition edition (February 2, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312364121
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312364120
  • Product Dimensions: 6.7 x 1.5 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,468 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #46,778 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Barb Caffrey VINE VOICE on December 26, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
"Winter Garden," by Kristin Hannah, is a surprising book. I say this as someone who has been deeply impressed by Ms. Hannah's writing before -- her "When Lightning Strikes" is on my short list of favorite novels to re-read often, and whenever I pick that book up, I always find something new to appreciate. So I was well aware of how vividly Ms. Hannah envisions history ("When Lightning Strikes" is a paranormal set, for the most part, in 1896), and of how fine her use of language, culture, mores, tone, and description. All of those are again on display in "Winter Garden," a more traditional straight-up family history and memoir, along with the themes of sacrifice, sisterhood, families, and secrets.

At the start of "Winter Garden," we meet two pre-teen sisters, Meredith and Nina Whitson. We see them briefly act in a play, a story their mother has told them that seems to be of a worthy, yet poor, young woman, her sister, and the prince who rescues her. But the play angers and upsets their mother, Anya, who cannot tell them why; this makes them vow never to try to please their mother again.

Then we see them as full-fledged adults -- Meredith, the nurturer, someone who takes on difficult jobs around the house and at her job without praise or fanfare and is running herself into the ground, and Nina, the prize-winning and world-renowned photojournalist, who takes on difficult jobs in various countries photographing people (mostly in war zones) and is running herself into the ground in a wholly different way. Meredith is married, with two children in college, but her marriage is in trouble because she can't communicate; Nina is in a long-term relationship but can't admit she loves her boyfriend because she isn't able to communicate.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
...but don't give up on it. I'm glad I listened to that advice from another reviewer as I might have put it down myself. The first half lays the groundwork of the familial relationships between the main characters. Sometimes the reader will get impatient with the flawed characters, as it seems drawn out at times, therefore 4-1/2 stars from me. It is not a happy or feel good type of read. It is sad, heartbreaking, and captivating.

There have been many novels lately that flip back and forth between the past and the present, many revolving around wartime. Personally I like that, it is like reading two novels in one. We have seen this in Shanghai Girls, on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, Whiskey Island, and countless others. This one gives us an intimate look at Leningrad survivors in the Russian/German war. It varies in the fact that the past is presented as a fairy tale by the Russian mother of two American born daughters. All three are strong-willed and feeling incomplete and do not relate well to each other. As adults, grief unites them and a death-bed promise forces them to face and come to know each other as well as themselves.

It starts as the two young daughters Meredith and Nina fail time and again in seeking affection from their cold, distant mother. When they were young their mother would tell them this fairy tale at night, practically the only communication they had between them at the time. It mesmerized them, leaving them wanting more, but the story telling stopped suddenly and does not continue until their adulthood when circumstances brings about the completion of the tale. In actuality the "fairy tale" is the story of their mother's young life in Russia.
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Format: Hardcover
If I didn't know better I would swear two different authors wrote this book. The sections set in current times were boring and I really didn't like any of the characters. I love Russian history so decided to skip to the fairytale parts of the book and low and behold here was a really good story! The writing styles were so different...why couldn't the entire book be written this way? I just skimmed through the parts in current times. And I'm sorry, the idea that because the mother suffered so much in Russia gave her the excuse to emotionally abuse her daughters and the supposedly loving father allowed it to go on just didn't work for me. If you want to read an incredible love story set during World War II and the siege of Leningrad...read The Bronze Horseman Trilogy by Paulina Simons. These books will simply sweep you off your feet and break your heart...incredible story written by a Russian who lived in Soviet Russia and whose grandparents lived through the siege. On my list of all time favorites!
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Format: Kindle Edition
Kirstin Hannah is one of my most favorite authors ever. I really enjoy her books and especially her character development. This book, though, left me feeling cold in the first 35-40% of the book. The characters just didn't seem real to me and the family dynamics seemed contrived. I had a very hard time getting into the book. However, I enjoyed the latter part of the book and the story sucked me in during the second half. Then, at the end of the book, the way things wrapped up, I just wanted to say, "Oh, puhleezzeeee!" It seemed very contrived and unbelievable.

Usually, if I don't get into a book in the first 20 pages, I put it down and move on to the next book. There are just too many good books to try to keep reading a bad one. This book was never BAD, but it is hard to get into and parts of it aren't believable. In between those parts, though, are some beautifully written passages about the characters in the book. The relationship between the sisters was especially fun to watch develop.
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