Synopses & Reviews
Can a woman ever really know herself if she doesnt know her mother?
From the author of the smash-hit bestseller Firefly Lane and True Colors comes a powerful, heartbreaking novel that illuminates the intricate mother-daughter bond and explores the enduring links between the present and the past
Meredith and Nina Whitson are as different as sisters can be. One stayed at home to raise her children and manage the family apple orchard; the other followed a dream and traveled the world to become a famous photojournalist. But when their beloved father falls ill, Meredith and Nina find themselves together again, standing alongside their cold, disapproving mother, Anya, who even now, offers no comfort to her daughters. As children, the only connection between them was the Russian fairy tale Anya sometimes told the girls at night. On his deathbed, their father extracts a promise from the women in his life: the fairy tale will be told one last time—and all the way to the end. Thus begins an unexpected journey into the truth of Anyas life in war-torn Leningrad, more than five decades ago. Alternating between the past and present, Meredith and Nina will finally hear the singular, harrowing story of their mothers life, and what they learn is a secret so terrible and terrifying that it will shake the very foundation of their family and change who they believe they are.
"Its a tearjerker, but the journey is as lovely—and haunting—as a snow filled winters night."
— People magazine
"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."
— Publishers Weekly
"Winter Garden is Kristin Hannahs best written and most deeply affecting novel yet."
— The Huffington Post
"This tearjerker weaves a convincing historical novel and contemporary family drama..."
— Library Journal
"A…searing story with a breathtaking, beautiful ending."
— The Seattle Times
From the author of the bestsellers "Firefly Lane" and "True Colors" comes a powerful, heartbreaking novel that illuminates the intricate mother-daughter bond and explores the enduring links between the present and the past.
Mesmerizing from the first page to the last, Winter Garden is one woman s sweeping, heartbreaking story of love, loss, and redemption. At once an epic love story set in World War II Russia and an intimate portrait of contemporary mothers and daughters poised at the crossroads of their lives, it explores the heartbreak of war, the cost of survival and the ultimate triumph of the human spirit. It is a novel that will haunt the reader long after the last page is turned.
1941. Leningrad, a once magical city besieged by war, cut off from aid, buried in snow. A city full of women desperate to save their children and themselves
2000. Loss and old age have taken a terrible toll on Anya Whitson. At last, she will reach out to her estranged daughters. In a halting, uncertain voice, she begins to weave a fable about a beautiful Russian girl who lived in Leningrad a lifetime ago
Nina and Meredith sit spellbound at their mother s bedside, listening to a story that spans more than sixty years and moves from the terrors of war-torn Leningrad under siege to modern-day Alaska.
In a quest to uncover the truth behind the story, Nina and Meredith discover a secret so shocking, so impossible to believe, it shakes the foundation of their family and changes who they believe they are.
Another powerful story of family love, and strong women a fascinating story that weaves fairy tales into reality, fairy tales that don t always have the expected endings. The Herald-News
a gripping read. Hannah s audience will find plenty to discuss in this enthralling entry. Booklist
About the Author
Kristin Hannah is the New York Times bestselling author of novels including Night Road, Firefly Lane, and True Colors. She was born in Southern California and moved to Western Washington when she was eight. A former lawyer, Hannah started writing when she was pregnant and on bed rest for five months. Writing soon became an obsession, and she has been at it ever since. She is the mother of one son and lives with her husband in the Pacific Northwest and Hawaii.
Reading Group Guide
Reading Group Questions for WINTER GARDEN by Kristin Hannah 1. This novel explores a complicated and strained relationship between two sisters. Do you think Meredith is justified in being so angry with Nina? In what ways are the sisters different and in what ways are they alike? 2. Meredith and Nina are both reluctant to let the men in their lives help them through a difficult time, yet both are suffering from the grief caused by the death of their father. Do you think this is something theyve inherited from their mother? In what other ways are they similar to their mother? Do you think its impossible to avoid becoming like the people who raised you? 3. Anya Whitson is color blind and cannot see the colors in her winter garden. Why do you think the author gave the character this particular trait? In what ways is it a metaphor for what Anya has gone through in her life? Do you believe it is a physiological blindness or a psychological one? 4. One of the themes in this book is female solidarity and strength during hard times. Nina witnesses women in Namibia, Africa holding hands and laughing, even though their country has been ravaged by famine and warfare. Their bond impenetrable. Why do you think shes so interested in this theme? How else does this theme play out throughout the novel? How does understanding her mothers life inform Ninas view of her work? 5. Memory is an important theme in Winter Garden. Meredith often regrets--when looking at old family photos taken without her--that she was often off organizing or obsessing over details, while everyone else was living in the moment, creating memories. How common is this for women and mothers? What memories keep your family together? 6. As a child in Leningrad, Anya learned that it was dangerous to express emotions. That in doing so she would be putting what was left of her family at risk with the secret police. But now, with Meredith and Nina, her inability to express emotion is driving them apart, destroying the family she has now. How has Anya passed down this legacy to her daughters? How has it harmed their own relationships? 7. Food is an important element in this novel. Obviously, Anya loves to cook. Why doesnt she teach this to her daughters? 8. Jeff tells Meredith that “words matter.” What are some examples of this throughout the story? How have words saved and harmed each of these characters lives? How has silence saved and harmed each of these characters lives? How do words—the telling of the fairy tale—change their individual and collective perceptions of who they are? 9. When Anya, Meredith and Nina watch the man carving the totem pole in Alaska in memory of his deceased son, Meredith realizes that Anyas fairytale has served the same function as this mans sculpture. It is a symbol of loss, a way to sublimate the pain of grief, to heal. In what other ways did Anya heal by telling her daughters the fairy tale? In what ways did Meredith and Anya heal? 10. Anya is an unsympathetic character throughout much of the book. How did your perception of her change as the fairy tale unfolded? Did you end up sympathizing with her, or even liking her? Or do you feel that her treatment of her daughters was inexcusable, regardless of the hardships she had faced in her life? How do you think you would have fared in Leningrad under the siege? Was Anya heroic in Leningrad, or a failure? 11. It isnt until Nina and Meredith discover who their mother is that they are able to discover who they are. What do they find out about themselves? How do you think their perception of their own childhoods will change now that they know the truth behind their mothers story? 12. Winter Garden teaches us that it is never too late to say “I love you.” Meredith and Nina waited all of their lives to hear it from their mother. Sasha waited until his death for Anya to return. What has this novel taught us about the bonds of family and the strength of love? 13. How did you feel about the ending?