Are you a fan of war stories? Not the action and violent kind – the ones with a sympathetic character who has somehow survived the horrors, is psychologically damaged, but retains an inner strength. Kristin Hannah’s Winter Garden has all the makings of a made-for-TV movie – World War II from the Russian perspective.
This family saga centers on the war story of a Russian refugee, who survived the terrifying siege on Leningrad during World War II. Anya’s husband of fifty years, former soldier and an American apple orchard farmer, evokes a deathbed promise for her to tell her painful history to their two grown daughters.
Hannah uses Anya’s bedtime Russian fairy tales to her daughters as hints to her past, and weaves them into the everyday minutia of their lives. As the stereotypical family conflicts develop in Hannah’s tale, it’s the tease of the fairy tale – told in cliffhanging episodes – that will keep you reading.
With the perspective of those whose lives were miserable under
Stalin, only to be bombed by Hitler, the war scenes will have you crying – but not as much as the deus ex machina ending. On a cruise to Alaska, all is finally revealed and the catharsis of telling her story finally sets Anya free – to finally go off into the sunset – or maybe it’s the Northern Lights.
Every now and then, I like to read a little schmaltz – or in this case, borscht with a little vodka.