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Publisher's Summary

Can a woman ever really know herself if she doesn't know her mother?

From the author of the smash-hit bestseller Firefly Lane and True Colors comes Kristin Hannah's powerful, heartbreaking novel that illuminates the intricate mother-daughter bond and explores the enduring links between the present and the past.

Meredith and Nina Whitson are as different as sisters can be. One stayed at home to raise her children and manage the family apple orchard; the other followed a dream and traveled the world to become a famous photojournalist. But when their beloved father falls ill, Meredith and Nina find themselves together again, standing alongside their cold, disapproving mother, Anya, who even now, offers no comfort to her daughters. As children, the only connection between them was the Russian fairy tale Anya sometimes told the girls at night. On his deathbed, their father extracts a promise from the women in his life: the fairy tale will be told one last time - and all the way to the end. Thus begins an unexpected journey into the truth of Anya's life in war-torn Leningrad, more than five decades ago. Alternating between the past and present, Meredith and Nina will finally hear the singular, harrowing story of their mother's life, and what they learn is a secret so terrible and terrifying that it will shake the very foundation of their family and change who they believe they are.

©2010 by Kristin Hannah. (P)2009 Brilliance Audio, all rights reserved.

What the critics say

“It's a tearjerker, but the journey is as lovely - and haunting - as a snow filled winter's night.” --People Magazine

“This tearjerker weaves a convincing historical novel and contemporary family drama.” --Library Journal

“Readers will find it hard not to laugh a little and cry a little more as mother and daughters reach out to each other just in the nick of time.” --Publishers Weekly 

What listeners say about Winter Garden

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hated this book

very disappointed nowhere close to "the great alone'
boring and hard to follow
didn't keep my interest

6 people found this helpful

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loved this!!

An exceptional story that draws you right in! You are captured from the very beginning.

6 people found this helpful

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Prepare for a Long Haul

First off, overall I enjoyed this novel. I've read Kristin Hannah's two more recent novels, The Nightingale, and The Great Alone. This book is not those books. While those two books I found utterly captivating, "The Winter Garden" takes a very long time to get around to telling the actual story. The story could be told in half the amount of words - much of the lead-up to finally unravelling the great mystery of Anya is superfluous. That said, the story of Anya and the siege of Leningrad is amazing, was unfamiliar to me, and I found it very enjoyable. Hannah's description of Russia and the hardships of the war were gripping, heartbreaking, and beautiful. #Audible1

5 people found this helpful

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Couldn’t stop listening

An amazing story of love, loss, war, relationships, forgiveness and reconciliation. Very well written, the story really pulls you in.

4 people found this helpful

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Good, not Hannah's best

Having read Firefly Lane and Fly Away, and listened to Four Strong Winds and The Nightingale, my expectations were high. While the story was strong, it wasn't as gripping as the others, and dragged in places. Overall I would rate it a 3.5.

2 people found this helpful

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Great book

It started off a bit slow but was well worth the read. I was crying so hard at the end I could hardly see to drive.

2 people found this helpful

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Wow.

I really loved this story. So moving. With a 5yr old at home and the war in Ukraine currently, it felt so real and so important to witness stories like this. My family doesn’t know this type of sacrifice (or hasn’t in a few generations)… I’m glad for the reminder of how lucky I am.

1 person found this helpful

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A Love Story

I loved this book from beginning to end. The narration and story line were wonderful and you could easily identify with the characters. It was a unique twist on a memory of WWII. A beautiful love story.

1 person found this helpful

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Slow start

This was a chore for me to get through. I found the story very slow and boring. If I was reading this book, I doubt I would get through it. I found the characters boring and I didn't like any of them. It was painful. I do love the Nightingale, but the last few books from Kristin Hannah have been disappointing for me.

The end was a nice surprise, but it was a chore getting there

1 person found this helpful

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Slow and steady unraveling

Like other books by this author, I found myself taking awhile to warm up to the characters, yet this time I found it intentional and mirroring other women I’ve met....until we stop and listen to each other’s stories do we forgive or look past the first impressions.

1 person found this helpful

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  • A. Musser
  • 2017-11-29

I thought I made a mistake

After listening to another work by this author that was just outstanding (The Nightingale), I grabbed this one without much research. I thought for the first several hours that I made a mistake. The story starts so slowly and initially felt almost a bit like an immature romance novel trying to masquerade as literature. But then the story came to life much further in than I had anticipated and it became all-consuming. It did a complete 180 and morphed into one of the most heartbreakingly beautiful stories I've ever read. So if you have the patience to suffer through a somewhat monotonous buildup, the effort will pay off in the end. I eventually felt like my entire day became about when I could get back to it. I longed for the story when I wasn't listening. It's a beautiful and emotional story that will make your heart break over and over but it will also come around to an ending that is a precious treasure.

A word of warning: since becoming a mother, stories where children suffer have become exponentially more upsetting to me and this story had some elements that were so far over that line of discomfort that there were times I wanted to stop. I wouldn't recommend this to a new mother or someone struggling with PPD or someone who was in mourning. The story comes around to a beautiful place but it trudges through some of the most painful hardships to get there. Ultimately I'm glad I stuck through it but my daughter is about to turn 2 and if I'd tried to listen to this in my earlier, super-hormonal, new mom days, I don't think I could have finished it. Don't forego it completely, just wait until you can handle it if you're feeling emotionally delicate.

767 people found this helpful

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  • Donna A
  • 2012-12-14

A journey of discovery

"Winter Garden" has to one of my most favorite books by Kristin Hannah. The book is about 3 women and their journey of discovery of who they are, of family history, of sacrifices made, of sisterhood and family secrets.

The book opens up when sisters Meredith and Nina are putting on a family play of a ‘fairy tale’ their mother Anya often tells them at night – of a Russian Prince and peasant girl. The acting out of this play angers Anya and the play is stopped. This is when they, as sisters become distant with each other and believe their cold, distant mother doesn’t love them. Fast forward to current day – when the 2 sisters; Meredith, the nurturer who runs the family apple orchard but living in a troubled marriage - Nina, prize-winning and world-renowned photojournalist, someone who avoids coming home and committing to a relationship, and Anya, their mother. They are forced to deal with their father’s death and promises each has made to him on his death bed. These promises force the 3 women to open up about their lives to each other and discover who they are as women and what they want. As Anya finally tells the full fairy tale of the prince and peasant girl - Meredith and Nina discover who their mother really is, of her strength, endurance and regrets.

There are moments in this books that are sad, heartbreaking, yet captivating – I so enjoyed the story within a story although not always a happy or feel good type of read. I did feel the beginning of the book was a little slow to take off but well worth hanging in there - so I would give the book more of a 4 1/2 stars. There were some surprises and some parts that were very predictable. This actually was an audiobook which was narrated by Susan Ericksen. I felt she did an excellent job and made the book very enjoyable to listen to, her Irish and Russian accents were right on for me.

137 people found this helpful

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  • John Gilmartin
  • 2018-03-30

Dysfunctional & Frustrating

So disappointed! Loved The Nightingale by this author and The Winter Garden was also a “must read.” Wrong! Monotonous storyline, annoying and frustrating to listen to. Could not finish - actually got a migraine! TERRIBLE!!!

32 people found this helpful

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  • magnoliamudpie
  • 2018-01-23

Slow start, strong finish, distracting narration

It took me several weeks to get through the first seven chapters of this book. The characters were whiny, the plot repetitive, and the narration took the whining, angry dialogue to a cringing level. I was resolved to just stop listening altogether, but after reading reviews that claimed it got better in the second half, I pressed on.

The storyline from there could have stood on it’s own, and I enjoyed reading a story set in a WWII but in a different country—Russia—than most authors choose as a setting for the horrendous event. While I mostly appreciated the narrator’s Russian accent when voicing the mother, she sometimes lapsed out of that accent when the mother went into lengthy storytelling.

The part of the story that was most profound to me is the author’s teasing out of how we judge others based on certain behavior or words, but we don’t necessarily know their story and how they became the person they are today.

Not my favorite Kristin Hannah work, but worth hanging in there if you find the first part close to awful.

32 people found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Clothing Fan
  • 2019-12-19

Read only if you enjoy family misery

Four hours in and very little had happened except a family making each other miserable over and over. Just awful slogging writing and narration. Didn’t care what happened to these people and nothing did.

19 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Alysa
  • 2010-10-17

Gut wrenching....but well done.

It's actually 2 stories ....the mother's tale of Stalin's Russia/ Siege of Leningrad and the daughters' tale of being raised by this survivor....both were very interesting. I was drawn into the history and learned so much about Soviet Russia. The truth of it is very hard and sad, making it a difficult read at times. I must mention the narration. This is the first book I have purchased with truly EXCELLENT narration! I can't stress enough what a difference this made to the overall enjoyment of this book. Every emotion, every character and every accent was delivered with the obvious gift of an actress. I will never purchase another book again without rave reviews for the narration. What a difference! Bravo!

84 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Terri
  • 2010-02-28

Best of 100

I have downloaded over 100 Audible titles and this has proven to be the absolute best for story and narration. Susan Ericksen did a phenomenal job on this narration and the story moved me beyond belief.
Excellent! Excellent!
Thank you.

99 people found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
  • Vicki
  • 2010-07-25

Slow to start and unbelievable characters

In the end I am glad that I decided to finish the book. The Mother's story is extremely interesting and well told although the ending is ridiculous.

However, getting to that point was like enduring Spring allergy fog. I just wanted to go to sleep and skip over the self-inflicted and over-dramatized pain of these women. The two daughters are obnoxious, self-absorbed and, well, silly characters. I never liked them and, frankly, they were hardly necessary to the good part of the story.
While, I know the story is fiction, I do expect my fiction to have some sense of reality. There is no way that a father (especially one portrayed as being as insightful as this one was) would have let that kind of animosity build up between a mother and daughters knowing that he knew why. The author tried to portray the father as the hero of all 3 women when I think he was the root cause of all of their problems. One long conversation with the daughters and half of that book would have been unnecessary.
I read True Colors and liked it but I'm not sure I will read any others by this author.
I really enjoyed the narrator.

63 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Kathryn @theBookDate
  • 2010-04-11

Excellent writing, excellent narrating.

Powerful story. I listened to the audio of this, very well done. It is not an easy story to listen to, but beautiful all the same. The way Kristin Hannah tells the story both in the present day and back to Stalin's time works seamlessly. In the telling of the story love and redemption eventually are born. But before that great pain and loss. Sometimes almost too unbearable to hear. Recommend the listen.

52 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Nicole K.
  • 2017-11-29

Awesome!

My parents made me promise I’d read this. For the first few pages, I couldn’t tell why they were so enthusiastic about this book, but then, whoosh! The story took off and I was carried away. Like my 83 year old parents, I love, love, loved it!

50 people found this helpful