by Kristin Hannah
I am a great fan of historical fiction, especially if it opens a window to a period of time I know little about. Winter Garden weaves together the story of a woman coming of age during the siege of Leningrad and the contemporary relationships of mothers, daughters, and sisters. Sisters Meredith and Nina know very little about their cold, distant mother and have resigned themselves to having only a semblance of a relationship with her. But just before their father passes away, he implores them to connect with their mother by getting her to finish telling them the fairy tales she started when they were children. Through these stories, Meredith and Nina discover a woman with a heartbreaking history who has spent a lifetime trying to atone for the mistakes she believes she made.
Kristin Hannah ties the two stories together seamlessly with the telling of the fairy tale. Sometimes when a book has two stories in one, I find myself skimming one part, eager to get back to the story I am enjoying more. With Winter Garden, I relished each woman's story and found transitioning from one to the other enjoyable, not choppy or forced in any way. The book was engaging and hard to put down, and I was awed by the circumstances and obstacles faced by the people of Leningrad during the siege and the things they endured. The contemporary story, dealing with marriages and relationships, was just as poignant and touching without slipping into cliches. I thought each part of the book served the other well, pulling the story along and allowing the reader to make connections between each character's past and the way she handled her present relationships.