Sunday, July 31, 2011

Winter Garden ~ Kristin Hannah

I must admit that I am a big Kristin Hannah fan.  She is a talented author who describes the scenes in her stories vividly and has superior character development.  These things combined absolutely draw the reader into the story.  This said, I expected to be immediately drawn into Winter Garden.  This, however, was not the case.  The story is slow to start - the first 150 pages were a bit of a struggle to get through - but once I got into the meat and potatoes, I could not put the book down.

In Winter Garden we are introduced to two sisters - Meredith and Nina - who could not be more different.  Meredith is married, with 2 college-aged daughters, tending to the family apple farm.  Meanwhile, Nina is a photo-journalist who travels around the world documenting human strife, especially in Africa.  When the girls' father falls ill, they come together at his side.  His dying wish is for the girls to get to know their distant mother, Anya, better - to understand the reasoning behind her "cold" personality and he asks Anya to tell them the complete and honest version of the fairy tales that she told them as children and he asks Meredith and Nina to never give up in persuading their mother to do so.  The story continues on for about another 100 pages before the unabridged version of the fairy tale of their childhood begins; and by the end the relationship between mother and daughters transforms to a loving, nurturing relationship of love and understanding.

The issue at the heart of the story is the fact that almost everyone has a background or even an incident in their past that others may not have knowledge of, and however small it may be, they are effected and their personality shaped by it.  I mean, who doesn't have something that has happened to them that doesn't affect how they feel towards a topic of some sort.  Your past helps pave your future.  It doesn't always have to be so, however.  As I will talk more about in my next book blog entry about Kathryn Stockett's The Help, depending on the circumstances, one can almost always change their attitude or perspective as long as they have the will do so.

In Anya's case, her distance from her children roots itself in untreated post-traumatic stress disorder, I believe.  Her mindset was that she could prevent being hurt if she simply distanced herself.  This belief was rooted in her previous life experiences. I can't help but wonder - how many of us do this on a daily basis?  Whether it be acting a certain way based on our own life experiences, or judging others based on outwardly gestures and/or appearances - in our society, we don't often stop to think and reason, do we?

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