Reviewer Amy Lignor: Amy is the author of a historical fiction novel entitled The Heart of a Legend, and Mind Made, a work of science fiction. Presently, she is writing an adventure series set in the New York Public Library, as well as a teen fiction series, The Angel Chronicles. She is an avid traveler and has been fortunate to have journeyed across the USA, where she has met the most amazing people, who truly bring life and soul to her books. She lives in the Land of Enchantment (for now) with her gorgeous daughter, Shelby, her wonderful Mom, Mary, and the greatest friend and critic in the entire world - her dog, Reuben
Author: Kristin Hannah
Author: Kristin Hannah
I was honored to “discover” the fantastic writing of Kristin Hannah when I read Firefly Lane and True Colors. So I can not express to you how happy I was to receive this newest offering in the mail.
In this superb book, we are brought into the lives of three fantastic women. On the banks of the Columbia River, we find ourselves in a huge house that looks like something out of a fairytale, sitting in an ice-covered apple orchard named Belye Nochi. Inside the four walls of the amazing home we meet a twelve-year-old girl named Meredith Whitson. Meredith wants only one thing in life, just as her sister Nina does, to make their mother show some type of love and affection toward them. The only kindness their mother shows them is when she tells them fairy tales in the evening before they go to sleep. One of their mother’s favorite tales is the story of a young peasant girl who falls in love with a prince. Meredith decides to stage a play one Christmas Eve where she, her friend, and her sister will become the characters of the fairy-tale Mom loves so much. As they take the “living-room stage” to begin, their mother turns pale and begins to scream at them. This is the last straw. That night, as Meredith and Nina are filled with anger and defeat, they realize they’ll never be close to their mother no matter how hard they try; and their mother’s distant – seemingly, uncaring – relationship with them is the driving force in what they both will become.
Meredith marries her friend from the play – Jeff – and they have two children. Meredith works super-hard at the apple orchard for her beloved father, making it into the greatest place on earth. She is the responsible one, standing by her father’s side and taking care of everyone she knows. But she is constantly sad. She’s tried very hard to be the best wife and mother, but the solitude she feels in her soul is breaking her marriage apart. Nina becomes a wild child. Her life is spent as a photo-journalist for magazines like The National Geographic. Wherever there is war, famine, pestilence – Nina runs to that place and snaps her photos of human atrocities. Nina, unlike her sister, is constantly running – from love; from life – throwing herself into harm’s way in order to avoid the past.
When their father grows old, he begs his two beloved daughters to get to know their mother – to give her a chance. The daughter’s make that solemn vow and then find themselves back in the house within the apple orchard, coercing their cold-hearted mother into revealing who she really is and why she has hated them all her life.
Anya, their mother, is a woman who spends all her time sitting outdoors in her winter garden. The garden is a small, cold place; the icicles and frost-covered bench makes the scene almost as fragile as their mother – who is suffering from a heartbreaking past that she doesn’t know how to talk about. She has blamed herself for years for the life she left behind in Russia when she married their father and moved to the States – finding peace at last in the arms of a man who loved her.
Together, the three women sit and begin to open up about their lives, and the writing locks the reader in and carries them away. This was not only a fantastic read, but as the writer reveals the full story of the fairytale centering around the peasant and the prince, she unveils the power and strength that Anya holds deep inside her. This is a woman who has lived in a constant state of regret and remorse, unable to unveil her secrets to her daughters.
To me, personally, winter was always the time of death. I lived in a remote town that was usually covered nine months out of the year in snow, with dark clouds filling the sky as far as the eye could see. There was too much time to sit and think, instead of going forth in the world and experiencing life. Most, like myself, spent their younger years planning an escape – as Nina, the younger sister in this book, does. I identified with every character, and I found myself caring deeply for Anya, the cold woman who had suffered in silence.
Kristin Hannah is a master at what makes and breaks the human heart. If it were up to me, she’d have to write a book per month so that all readers could experience her exquisite words time and time again.