Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah is a beautiful blend of contemporary and historical fiction with a good dose of fairy tale. It’s one of those books that contribute to insomnia in the world. Once you start the book it’s almost impossible to put down until you reach the very last word.
Meredith and Nina share a loving, happy relationship with their father. On the other hand their relationship with their cold mother is strained from the earliest days of childhood. Their mom, Anya, freely expresses her love for her husband, but doesn’t even attempt to express any love to her daughters.
During their childhood Anya will sometimes tell the girls fairytales. One Christmas, in an attempt to make her mother happy, Meredith turns a fairytale into a stage show for the family. All is going well until her mother demands they stop, tears up the set, and storms out of the room. Meredith and Nina are hurt and confused. As always, their father attempts to soften their mother’s harshness. The girls bury the hurt deep in their hearts and try to figure out life without the help of their mother and Anya stops telling her fairytales.
As they grow into adulthood Meredith joins her father in the family business and tries to appease her mother. Nina takes off to follow her passion for photography to the far reaches of the earth. The sisters’ lives are as different as red and blue and they grow apart from each other. The only link holding the family together is their father.
When their father suffers a massive heart attack the girls rush to his side. Just before he dies Nina promises to get to know her mother and make her tell the story of the prince and peasant girl. After the funeral Nina escapes to her life leaving Meredith to care for their mother who seems to slip very quickly into dementia. With no other options Meredith finally puts her mother in a nursing home.
Nina is furious when she finds her mother is in a nursing home and she returns to set things straight. She moves her mother out of the nursing home and takes her back to the family home. Determined to keep the promise made to her dad she sets about getting to know her mother and getting her to tell the fairytale of the prince and the peasant girl. Meredith digs her heels in and fights Nina even after her mother does begin to open up and tell her story.
Kristin Hannah has a knack for tackling relationships between women with humor, depth, and insight. Winter Garden is no exception. It is a heart breaking and heartwarming book. The tale Hannah spins out keeps the reader engaged and flipping pages. Hannah’s story will keep the reader guessing until the very end what will ultimately happen between Anya, Meredith, and Nina.
This book is well written and easy to read. Even when switching between current day events and the fairytale, the reader will be able to easily follow what is happening. The two stories weave together seamlessly.
If you haven’t read any of Kristin Hannah’s books, I recommend that you do and Winter Garden would be a good place to start.