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Mesmerizing from the first page to the last, Kristin Hannah's Winter Garden is one woman’s sweeping, heartbreaking story of love, loss, and redemption. At once an epic love story set in World War II Russia and an intimate portrait of contemporary mothers and daughters poised at the crossroads of their lives, it explores the heartbreak of war, the cost of survival and the ultimate triumph of the human spirit. It is a novel that will haunt the reader long after the last page is turned.
1941. Leningrad, a once magical city besieged by war, cut off from aid, buried in snow. A city full of women desperate to save their children and themselves...
2000. Loss and old age have taken a terrible toll on Anya Whitson. At last, she will reach out to her estranged daughters. In a halting, uncertain voice, she begins to weave a fable about a beautiful Russian girl who lived in Leningrad a lifetime ago...
Nina and Meredith sit spellbound at their mother’s bedside, listening to a story that spans more than sixty years and moves from the terrors of war-torn Leningrad under siege to modern-day Alaska.
In a quest to uncover the truth behind the story, Nina and Meredith discover a secret so shocking, so impossible to believe, it shakes the foundation of their family and changes who they believe they are.
“Another powerful story of family love, and strong women...a fascinating story that weaves fairy tales into reality, fairy tales that don’t always have the expected endings.”―The Herald-News
“...a gripping read. Hannah’s audience will find plenty to discuss in this enthralling entry.”―Booklist
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Kristin Hannah is the New York Times bestselling author of novels including Night Road, Firefly Lane, and True Colors. She was born in Southern California and moved to Western Washington when she was eight. A former lawyer, Hannah started writing when she was pregnant and on bed rest for five months. Writing soon became an obsession, and she has been at it ever since. She is the mother of one son and lives with her husband in the Pacific Northwest and Hawaii.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
2000Was this what forty looked like? Really? In the past year Meredith had gone from Miss to Ma’am. Just like that, with no transition. Even worse, her skin had begun to lose its elasticity. There were tiny pleats in places that used to be smooth. Her neck was fuller, there was no doubt about it. She hadn’t gone gray yet; that was the one saving grace. Her chestnut-colored hair, cut in a no-nonsense shoulder-length bob, was still full and shiny. But her eyes gave her away. She looked tired. And not only at six in the morning.She turned away from the mirror and stripped out of her old T-shirt and into a pair of black sweats, anklet socks, and a long-sleeved black shirt. Pulling her hair into a stumpy ponytail, she left the bathroom and walked into her darkened bedroom, where the soft strains of her husband’s snoring made her almost want to crawl back into bed. In the old days, she would have done just that, would have snuggled up against him.Leaving the room, she clicked the door shut behind her and headed down the hallway toward the stairs.In the pale glow of a pair of long-outdated night-lights, she passed the closed doors of her children’s bedrooms. Not that they were children anymore. Jillian was nineteen now, a sophomore at UCLA who dreamed of being a doctor, and Maddy—Meredith’s baby—was eighteen and a freshman at Vanderbilt. Without them, this house—and Meredith’s life—felt emptier and quieter than she’d expected. For nearly twenty years, she had devoted herself to being the kind of mother she hadn’t had, and it had worked. She and her daughters had become the best of friends. Their absence left her feeling adrift , a little purposeless. She knew it was silly. It wasn’t as if she didn’t have plenty to do. She just missed the girls; that was all.She kept moving. Lately that seemed to be the best way to handle things.Downstairs, she stopped in the living room just long enough to plug in the Christmas tree lights. In the mudroom, the dogs leaped up at her, yapping and wagging their tails.“Luke, Leia, no jumping,” she scolded the huskies, scratching their ears as she led them to the back door. When she opened it, cold air rushed in. Snow had fallen again last night, and though it was still dark on this mid-December morning, she could make out the pale pearlescence of road and field. Her breath turned into vapory plumes.By the time they were all outside and on their way, it was 6:10 and the sky was a deep purplish gray.Right on time.Meredith ran slowly at first, acclimating herself to the cold. As she did every weekday morning, she ran along the gravel road that led from her house, down past her parents’ house, and out to the old single-lane road that ended about a mile up the hill. From there, she followed the loop out to the golf course and back. Four miles exactly. It was a routine she rarely missed; she had no choice, really. Everything about Meredith was big by nature. She was tall, with broad shoulders, curvy hips, and big feet. Even her features seemed just a little too much for her pale, oval face—she had a big Julia Roberts– type mouth, huge brown eyes, full eyebrows, and thick hair. Only constant exercise, a vigilant diet, good hair products, and an industrial-sized pair of tweezers could keep her looking good.As she turned back onto her road, the rising sun illuminated the mountains, turned their snowcapped peaks lavender and pink.On either side of her, thousands of bare, spindly apple trees showed through the snow like brown stitches on white fabric. This fertile cleft of land had belonged to their family for fifty years, and there, in the center of it all, tall and proud, was the home in which she’d grown up. Belye Nochi. Even in the half-light it looked ridiculously out of place and ostentatious.Meredith kept running up the hill, faster and faster, until she could barely breathe and there was a stitch in her side.She came to a stop at her own front porch as the valley filled with bright golden light. She fed the dogs and then hurried upstairs. She was just going into the bathroom as Jeff was coming out. Wearing only a towel, with his graying blond hair still dripping wet, he turned sideways to let her pass, and she did the same. Neither one of them spoke.By 7:20, she was drying her hair, and by 7:30—right on time—she was dressed for work in a pair of black jeans and a fitted green blouse. A little eyeliner, some blush and mascara, a coat of lipstick, and she was ready to go.Downstairs, she found Jeff at the kitchen table, sitting in his regular chair, reading The New York Times. The dogs were asleep at his feet.She went to the coffeepot and poured herself a cup. “You need a refill?”“I’m good,” he said without looking up.Meredith stirred soy milk into her coffee, watching the color change. It occurred to her that she and Jeff only talked at a distance lately, like strangers—or disillusioned partners—and only about work or the kids. She tried idly to remember the last time they’d made love, and couldn’t.Maybe that was normal. Certainly it was. When you’d been married as long as they had, there were bound to be quiet times. Still, it saddened her sometimes to remember how passionate they used to be. She’d been fourteen on their first date (they’d gone to see Young Frankenstein; it was still one of their favorites), and to be honest, that was the last time she’d ever really looked at another guy. It was strange when she thought about that now; she didn’t consider herself a romantic woman, but she’d fallen in love practically at first sight. He’d been a part of her for as long as she could remember.They’d married early—too early, really—and she’d followed him to college in Seattle, working nights and weekends in smoky bars to pay tuition. She’d been happy in their cramped, tiny U District apartment. Then, when they were seniors, she’d gotten pregnant. It had terrified her at first. She’d worried that she was like her mother, and that parenthood wouldn’t be a good thing. But she discovered, to her profound relief, that she was the complete opposite of her own mother. Perhaps her youth had helped in that. God knew Mom had not been young when Meredith was born.Jeff shook his head. It was a minute gesture, barely even a movement, but she saw it. She had always been attuned to him, and lately their mutual disappointments seemed to create sound, like a high-pitched whistle that only she could hear.“What?” she said.“Nothing.”“You didn’t shake your head over nothing. What’s the matter?”“I just asked you something.”“I didn’t hear you. Ask me again.”“It doesn’t matter.”“Fine.” She took her coffee and headed toward the dining room.It was something she’d done a hundred times, and yet just then, as she passed under the old-fashioned ceiling light with its useless bit of plastic mistletoe, her view changed.She saw herself as if from a distance: a forty-year-old woman, holding a cup of coffee, looking at two empty places at the table, and at the husband who was still here, and for a split second she wondered what other life that woman could have lived. What if she hadn’t come home to run the orchard and raise her children? What if she hadn’t gotten married so young? What kind of woman could she have become?And then it was gone like a soap bubble, and she was back where she belonged.“Will you be home for dinner?”“Aren’t I always?”“Seven o’clock,” she said.“By all means,” he said, turning the page. “Let’s set a time.”Meredith was at her desk by eight o’clock. As usual, she was the first to arrive and went about the cubicle-divided space on the ware house’s second floor flipping on lights. She passed by her dad’s office—empty now—pausing only long enough to glance at the plaques by his door. Thirteen times he’d been voted Grower of the Year and his advice was still sought out by competitors on a regular basis. It didn’t matter that he only occasionally came into the office, or that he’d been semi-retired for ten years. He was still the face of the Belye Nochi orchard, the man who had pioneered Golden Delicious apples in the early sixties, Granny Smiths in the seventies, and championed the Braeburn and Fuji in the nineties. His designs for cold storage had revolutionized the business and helped make it possible to export the very best apples to world markets.She had had a part to play in the company’s growth and success, to be sure. Under her leadership, the cold storage ware house had been expanded and a big part of their business was now storing fruit for other growers. She’d turned the old roadside apple stand into a gift shop that sold hundreds of locally made craft items, specialty foods, and Belye Nochi memorabilia. At this time of year—the holidays—when train-loads of tourists arrived in Leavenworth for the world-famous tree-lighting ceremony, more than a few found their way to the gift shop.The first thing she did was pick up the phone to call her youngest daughter. It was just past ten in Tennessee.“Hello?” Maddy grumbled.“Good morning,” Meredith said brightly. “It sounds like someone slept in.”“Oh. Mom. Hi. I was up late last night. Studying.”“Madison Elizabeth,” was all Meredith had to say to make her point.Maddy sighed. “Okay. So it was a Lambda Chi party.”“I know how fun it all is, and how much you want to experience every moment of college, but your first final is next week. Tuesday morning, right?”“Right.”“You have to learn to balance schoolwork and fun. So get your lily-white ass out of bed and get to class. It’s a life skill—partying all night and still getting up on time.”“The world won’t end if I miss one Spanish class...
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