Friday, October 05, 2012

Review: Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah (audio)

Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah
Narrated by Susan Ericksen
Brilliance Audio
February 2010
Length: 14 hours, 48 minutes

From the back of the audio case: Meredith and Nina Whitson are as different as sisters can be. One stayed at home to raise her children and manage the family business; the other followed a dream and traveled the world to become a famous photojournalist. But when their beloved father falls ill, these two estranged sisters will find themselves together again, standing alongside their disapproving mother, Anya, who even now offers no comfort to her daughters. On his deathbed, their father extracts a promise: Anya will tell her daughters a story; it is one she began years ago and never finished. This time she will tell it all the way to the end. 

The tale their mother tells them is unlike anything they've heard before - a captivating, mysterious love story that spans more than sixty years and moves from frozen, war-torn Leningrad to modern-day Alaska. Nina's obsession to uncover the truth will send them all on an unexpected journey into their mother's past, where they will discover a secret so shocking, it shakes the foundation of their family and changes who they believe they are. 

Mesmerizing from beginning to end, Winter Garden is that rarest of novels - at once an epic love story and an intimate portrait of women poised at the crossroads of their lives. Evocative, lyrically written, and ultimately uplifting, it will haunt the listener long after the last word is spoken.

My thoughts: This was an amazing story!!! I was hooked from the beginning and as we start to hear the mother's story, I was pulled in even more.  

Meredith and Nina are as different as two sisters can be and while they are both close with their father, they have never had a good relationship with their mother, Anya. She has always held back and seemed to disapprove of everything they did. When their father suddenly falls ill, he makes their mother promise to tell a story in its entirety. He also makes Meredith and Nina promise to listen to their mom and support her.  

Anya is Russian-born, married to an American and has always told her girls fairy tales, but never seems to finish them. After her husband's death, she starts acting strangely. Nina comes home to help out and it determined to hear her mom's story. Meredith is more concerned with Anya's strange behavior, and focuses on cleaning out her mother's house, trying to get ready to move her.

When Anya started telling her 'fairy tale', we go back in time to Leningrad during WWII. As the story unfolds, Nina and Meredith (who has been secretly listening all along) start to realize that there is more to this fairy tale than just a story about princes and black nights. Might this fairy tale somehow relate to Anya's past?

Alternating between the present and the past, this tale is both beautiful and heart-wrenching. I had chills at certain parts and tears streaming down my face at others. It is definitely a story that you want to have a box of tissues handy for. I have never read a Kristin Hannah book that I didn't love but I think this might just be my favorite of hers.

Audio thoughts: I think listening to this book was the way to go. Narrator Susan Ericksen was able to differentiate voices and when telling Anya's fairy tale, had a believable Russian accent which I think enhanced the story even more. This is one that I can see myself listening to again and again.

Have you ever listened to a book that you thought was just made for audio? Have you read a book that you wished you listened to or vice versa?

(I borrowed this audio book from the library.)
*** Devourer of Books hosts Sound Bytes every Friday - a meme to share the audio books that everyone is listening to. Stop by and you just might find your next audio book!



  1. Thanks for the review! I read Hannah's Firefly Lane a few years ago, really enjoyed it...looks like I'll have to give this one a try too.

    1. I've read many of her books and have enjoyed them all.

  2. I loved Home Front and I'll have to look for this book at my library. I am very picky about audio books so I may pick up the print version instead.

  3. I loved this one too! My review goes up tonight. You have to listen to Magic Hour next if you can get it, it was amazing but Winter Gardens is my favourite out of the 4 I've read. Actually I've listened to them all and they've all been brilliantly narrated.
    Lovely review Kristin


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