“Vera,” he says, making her look at him.
“You stay alive… Promise me. The three of you will make it to the end.”
WOW. WOW. WOW!!!!
Winter Garden was one of the most breathtaking books that I have ever read in my entire life. And I do not say that lightly. I cried so hard I couldn’t even see the pages. The emotions were overpowering and all-consuming. It also has THE. MOST. BEAUTIFUL. EPILOGUE. of all-time. The only other book that has made me cry this hard before has been The Bronze Horseman which is my favorite book in the world… My God, THE FEELS!!!! What began as a family mystery turned into an EPIC story of love and survival.
I rarely give this rating, but this was 6 STARS!
Before anything, please note the genre of this book is Women’s Fiction, and not specifically Romance even though there is indeed a beautiful, powerful, and heart-wrenching love story at the heart of the book. If you’re a romance reader (like me), please don’t worry though, I promise the ending is amazing.
The other important things to know before you read is that I do think some readers might find the book a little slow at first and maybe even find that they didn’t ‘like’ the characters. Don’t let that worry you. I promise you there’s a reason for this. This is a story that builds in rich layers of complexity and emotional depth in such a way that it is absolutely worth it to stick with the story because the impact and delivery of both the second half of the book and especially the ending is just SO incredible and powerful!! As I was reading, my rating went from maybe 4 stars at first, to 4.5, to 5, then it was a solid 5++ stars for a while… then on page 380, my rating shot straight up to 6 stars. I read that page and instantly got CHILLS through my entire body. SHIVERS. I re-read the page twice, then put the book down and just SOBBED my heart out. Pure ugly crying. Tears streaming uncontrollably down my face. The story was so beautiful!!!!!!!
Because this book’s genre is indeed different than my usual romance recommendations, I strongly suggest that you read the blurb before purchasing. It’s a very accurate representation of the story. For me personally, I knew I wanted to read this book the moment I read the blurb. If you’re also intrigued by it, then you should definitely read this book for SURE and as soon as possible. But if the blurb doesn’t appeal to you, then I’ll be really honest and say that this book is likely not for you. But definitely check it out!!! It’s worth every penny and for me, this book is a Forever Top Favorite. Here’s the blurb:
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.
Kristin Hannah’s writing is absolutely exquisite. She writes with a deeply profound and insightful understanding and portrayal of people that never ceases to amaze me. Her storytelling skills are almost unparalleled. I’ve read three of her books at this point and have been blown away by each one.
I found it absolutely fascinating and captivating watching the way the ‘fairy tale’ that the mother was telling slowly blended into reality. The transition was so powerful — there are all these subtle details that if you read carefully, you’ll catch and they’ll take your breath away. It’s a truly stunning piece of writing.
When I first started the book, I was reading more out of curiosity than anything else. Truthfully, I found many of the characters to be cold and distant and wasn’t really sure that I’d ever connect with them on an emotional level but I was intrigued enough by the story to keep reading. And along the way, there’s this undercurrent to the story that pulls you in deeper and just keeps growing stronger. I think that it’s ok not to like the characters at first because one of the important messages of this book is how often and easily people misjudge each other without knowing their full story. I think it was written like that on purpose — to make you experience the message of the story first hand. Because I promise you by the end of this story, I was overflowing with emotion. Few books have ever made me care so deeply for the characters as this one did. This isn’t just a story you read, it’s an experience you go through.
This isn’t just one of my favorite books of the year, it’s one of my favorite books of all-time. I know for a certainty that no matter how many books I read, this will always remain precious to me. It has beautiful writing, a breathtaking story, and a powerful ending — the true sign of a fantastic novel.
“I think maybe love can just… dissolve.”
“No, it does not,” her mother said.
“So how do –“
“You hang on,” her mother said. “Until your hands are bleeding, and you still do not let go.”
Rating: 6 STARS! Standalone.
Here are my two other reviews of Kristin Hannah books:
Wow – Need to read this! Thanks for the review!
Very welcome!! It’s definitely a must-read 😀
One of my top 5 books (and i read a lot). So beautiful!
It’s definitely on my Top Top Top Favorites list, too!! 😀
Sounds like a great read to start the winter months. I recently read my first and only Kristen Hannah book, Firefly Lane. I love love loved it and am taking a teeny tiny emotional break by reading a “light” read in between…. This is now next!!! Thx
Very welcome!!! And I think Firefly Lane might be my next KH book 🙂
I love Kristin Hannah!
She’s an amazing author!
I just finished this book and had to thank you for recommending it. Like you, this has now become one of my favorite books of all time.
Oh I’m so glad to hear that, Amy!!! 🙂
Donna Saporito says
This book was amazing!
mildred owens says
Where did the idea for this remarkable come from to the author? She must have done an amazing amount of research to accomplish and I wonder if she had a close friend or relative who experiended someone who lived through this terrible time in Leningrad?