Wednesday, November 30, 2011

book review: Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah

The backstory: Winter Garden is one of the picks for my new book club this month. (We meet every other month and read two picks, but this month we chose three!)

The basics: Sisters Nina, an award-winning photojournalist, and Meredith, who stayed home to take over the family's orchard, are quite different. They've both struggled with their mother's emotional distance throughout their lives and relished their father's affection.

My thoughts: If not for my book club, I would likely not have made time to read Winter Garden. I foolishly dismissed it as fluffy, but I was pleasantly surprised to see how emotionally affecting this novel is. It is safe to say I first identified more with Nina, the roaming photojournalist who doesn't want to settle down, than with Meredith, who has a struggling marriage and two daughters in college. Nina describes her "yearning to see everything, no matter how terrible, to know everything."  Despite my initial preference for one sister, I always enjoyed Meredith's story, even as I didn't identify with it.

Early on, I was struck with Hannah's writing:
"Nowhere was the quiet more noticeable than in Meredith Whitson’s own house. At twelve, she had already discovered the empty spaces that gathered between people. She longed for her family to be like those she saw on television, where everything looked perfect and everyone got along. No one, not even her beloved father, understood how alone she often felt within these four walls, how invisible."
She uses descriptions quite well, and she involves emotion beautifully. I was captivated with the story of this family.With the extended holiday weekend, I had the luxury of reading the last 300 pages in a single sitting on my couch. I can't wait to discuss this novel with my book club tonight.

Favorite passage: "And maybe that was how it was supposed to be, how life unfolded when you lived it long enough. Joy and sadness were part of the package; the trick, perhaps, was to let yourself feel all of it, but to hold on to the joy just a little more tightly because you never knew when a strong heart could just give out."

The verdict: I loved this novel. The characters came alive for me, and I adored the mix of modern day with historical flashbacks. It's a beautiful story of a family, and it's one I will treasure for years to come.

Rating: 5 out of 5
Length: 394 pages
Publication date: February 2, 2010 (it's in paperback now)
Source: I bought it for my Kindle

Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy Winter Garden from Amazon in print or for the Kindle.

As an affiliate, I receive a very, very small commission when you make a purchase through any of the above links. Thank you for helping to support my book habits that bring more content to this blog!


  1. I dismissed this novel strictly because I always see it on the clearance table at Barnes and Noble. I'm thinking I should probably pick it up the next time I'm there.

  2. I've heard lots of praise for Kristin Hannah books - but I too dismissed them as fluff (maybe the covers are misleading). Anyways, glad to hear you enjoyed this one so much. I'm definitely adding it to my TBR list.

  3. I also always dismissed Hannah, but it actually sounds like this is a book that I would really enjoy. I loved the passage that you shared with us. It's so descriptive and evocative! I need to read this one at some point!

  4. I've dismissed this one too for the same reason. So glad you liked it! My book club and I were talking about our books this year, how many we loved, etc. No one could recall one title. How sad is that? We had a stinker of a year.

  5. Like everyone else, I've passed on this because it seemed super fluffy -- but I'll keep an eye out for it at the library. The story lines intrigue me!

  6. Wow 5 out of 5! I'm glad you liked this. I really like Hannah's books, and I agree this one was pretty powerful. I actually had a lot of trouble getting through the beginning, but the second half was wow. (I was going to say good, but that just doesn't seem right, lol).

  7. Aren't book clubs great? I love when I'm introduced to a new author, especially one that I had previously dismissed for one reason or another. I haven't read anything by Hannah but that may change after reading your review.

  8. I love Kristin Hannah. I just received her new book, Home Front which comes out in January. I can hardly wait to be able to read it!

  9. This is probably one I would not pick up without some prodding, but the writing you shared here is beautiful! One I'd likely pick up now. Thanks, Carrie!

  10. I read Hannah's Firefly Lane for a book club and really liked it. I have Winter Garden on my shelf and must get to it.

  11. Her dialogue is touching, it’s frightening and it’s full of heart. Her characters range from the enigmatic to the pragmatic and her readers will laugh, cry and hurt with them. This is a love of country story, it’s a tale of loss, of regrets and one woman’s journey with a little help from those who love her.


Thank you for taking the time to comment. Happy reading!