Winter Garden - Kristin Hannah
Four stars, five stars, I'm not sure what to rate this. I think it's four and a half stars. Winter Garden is basically broken into two stories. The "present day" story (that's really 2000/2001) is filled with some seriously frustrating people. It's hard to understand why Meredith responds (or doesn't) to her husband, Jeff, the way she does. It is frustrating to watch her continually hurt him and him continually try to love her. Her younger sister, Nina, is a selfish brat and a journalist. She has that journalist way of standing on the outside observing and making judgments and declarations without jumping in and doing anything. When she finally does, she berates and judges her sister without trying to really understand the situation. Making decisions that will bind Meredith's life while she runs back to Africa again, never available to help. She keeps her loving boyfriend, Danny, who wants to really know her and be with her at arm length, much like her sister with her husband. Both women love their father dearly and have spent their lives trying to love their mother, Anya, who has made them feel nothing but unloved and unwanted. I wondered why they kept trying and stuck around since their father let their mother treat them the way she did and Anya was always so cold.Thankfully they did keep trying though. When their family suffers a devastating loss Meredith and Nina make promises that start them on a path to learning who their mother really is. And that is where this book transforms from a middle of the road novel to damn near amazing. The story within the story is everything. Through Anya's fairytale we come to know her alongside her daughters. We see how it relates to the women's lives and has affected all of them, even through the present. It is so engrossing, haunting, and . . . real. I want to be able to describe the story but I don't want to give anything away as the reveals are as important to the reader as the characters. But it does become clear that it is a heartbreaking story and it pretty much wrecked me. Tears pouring down my face, can't read through them, chest tight, little kid silent before sobbing out loud crying. Much like with Magic Hour, I couldn't stop. Though this was much worse because that book wasn't on the same level of tragic. I'm not a parent and I have no designs on becoming one, so I can't imaging being one and reading this. Those were the parts that affected me the most. If you do nothing but read the fairytale the book is completely worth it. I just know I'm going to be thinking about this for days. I'm not sure how I feel about the end of the present day story. It is actually something I envisioned happening, but in a totally different way. This is where the book stretched believability and felt slightly manipulative to elicit emotions from the reader. But the result is so bitter, bitter sweet (particularly if you're a glass half empty kind of person like me) it is almost too hard to have a problem with it. Especially since I was already in the throes of strong emotions. Plus, I called it. There were also some questions of continuity for me, and unanswered questions I wish had been given time in the end after possibly trimming some of the fat from the beginning. I would have especially liked to have seen more of their family dynamic in the aftermath of what was learned. Trying to reclaim some of the time and love that was wasted. I did love witnessing the evolution of Anya, Meredith, and Nina's relationship throughout the story. I'll probably continually go back and forth on this ending. I will say the epilogue was pretty heavy-handed and unnecessary.Still, even with those issues, with the amount of emotion this book ripped from me I don't feel like I can dock it too much.Fine, Kristin Hannah.Take them.YOU CAN HAVE ALL THE STARS.Just please stop ripping me to pieces. I'm not sure I can handle any more of your books.