At the beginning of this year, I purposed not to buy any books until I read more of what waits on my overflowing bookshelf and Kindle. By the third week of January, I’d broken my resolution. Never one to miss perusing a bin of discounted books – and perhaps to console myself after an unsuccessful attempt to find a new HEPA filter for the vacuum – I stopped to take a quick look in the book bin. The cover of Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah caught my eye and after reading the book jacket, I realized it had been on my “nice to read someday” list. So for $5, I broke my resolution and took it home.
I read the book this weekend in front of the cozy fire. It was a well-written, engaging story of two daughters who had spent their lives seeking their mother’s love and attention, and a mother they never really knew steely compartmentalizing the pain of the past while allowing it to dictate how she lived her life. The story is told in the present, while the past is artfully revealed through the periodic telling of a Russian fairy tale.
The book grasped me on many levels. The references to historical
St. Petersburg ( Leningrad) intrigued me, having had the privilege to visit while in college. While fiction, the story offered a first person account of what it might have been like to live in 1930s-40s St. Petersburg . The daughters’ struggled to understand their mother, coming to realize how their mother’s past impacted not only their relationships with her, but the choices they did or didn’t make as adult women. Russia
My genre of choice is fiction. Some discount fiction as fluff, as escapism. Sometimes that’s true. Sometimes I just want to read something that I don’t have to think about, to give my mind a break from demands and responsibilities of everyday living. But a good work of fiction can do so much more beyond offering respite from the everyday. Winter Garden personalized events only touched on in history books and also made me consider how a daughter’s story can never truly be separated from her mother’s.