Winter Garden. Finished 10-10-19, 4.5/5 stars, fiction, pub. 2010
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 Anya’s 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 mother’s 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. from Goodreads
The story starts with bickering sisters Meredith and Nina, nothing too different than other stories I’ve read, but then their father takes ill and it’s important they’re all together. This is also when we start hearing about the cold mom, Anya, who seemed to dislike both girls growing up. As the three women must help each other, the story of Anya’s life in Russia takes center stage. Her story drew me in and kept me turning the pages as fast as I could. It was that good. The sisters faded into the background for me as I read in horror the things that Anya faced.
I loved Anya’s story. The sisters were a nice sideshow and the end was a bit too much, but the gut punch of war torn Leningrad was the star here. There will be scenes that will stick with me for quite some time. I’ve seen that some people who are Hannah fans were disappointed with one after so many great ones. I can’t speak to that since I’ve only ever read one of her earlier romance books, but I’m guessing this will make my favorite list at the end of the year.