Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah
This is my third book by Kristin Hannah in a month. Once again, this book is about strained relationships and the unlikely way that they are restored. Hannah shows how a mother’s silence about her own history can cause a lifetime of misunderstandings and broken relationships, and how the truth can reclaim love.
The father is the loving husband and doting father, while the mother, Anya, has struggled all of her daughters’ lives to show them the affection that they crave. The sisters grow apart as they enter adulthood as Meredith stays home, marries, and takes over the family business, and Nina is a globetrotting photojournalist, avoiding home and the painful memories that exist there.
When their father has a massive heart attack and dies, the sisters are left to deal with their grief – and their mother – in their own ways. Meredith stays put and stoicly cares for Anya, who seems to be developing dementia, while Nina heads into a war zone to document the struggle of complete strangers.
After several months, Nina returns to find Anya in a nursing home. Meredith, fulfilling her promise to care for her mother, made the best choice she could under the circumstances. But Nina is furious and immediately moves Anya back home. Before his death, Nina had promised her father to get to know her mother, and she realizes she has run away from that promise. She urges her mom to tell the whole ‘fairy tale’ that she used to tell her daughters as young girls. Meredith feigns disinterest, but can’t help but listen in to the beginning of the familiar story.
Through the telling of the story, which takes place during the siege of Linengrad in the 1930s, Meredith and Nina learn more about their mom than they ever bargained for. As children they never heard the tale in its entirety. It turns out the story is not a fairy tale at all, but Anya’s life story. Through her telling, Anya releases fears that she has held on to for decades. It is a story of strength and courage, but filled with heartbreak.
Finally, her daughters begin to understand why their mother reacted in certain ways while they were children. The women all learn to open up to one another and to love unconditionally.
This story has repressed anger, love withdrawn, and debilitating fears, but it is a story of courage, hope, and a love that bears all.