Winter Garden - Kristin Hannah I was hooked with the prologue of this book which begins in 1972 with 12 year old Meredith and her 9 year old sister Nina planning a play that Meredith wrote based on the fairy tales their mother always told them about a “reckless peasant girl who dared to fall in love with a prince”. Their mother was emotionally cold to her daughters, “any warmth she had was directed at her husband”. Therefore, the girls were always searching for a way to get closer to her. Meredith thought she finally figured it out with the play; that it may even become a family tradition, that her mother would be thrilled, and the play would finally bridge the gap between mother and daughters. She couldn’t have been more wrong. Suddenly, just as Jeff, Meredith's friend, began to act out his part in the play as the prince and hands Meredith, the peasant girl, a pair of silk roses a loud crash sounds. It is their mother Anya who has broken a glass and cut herself and loudly demands an end to the play. After reading the prologue, I wrote, “The girls were so very excited about the play and then Anya just ruined it, squashed it, made them feel so bad! I don't believe that this book will hold any redemption for Anya on the way I feel about her already! I don't care what she lived through!!”Well, little did I know! Just keep reading!The first chapter was more about Meredith, the second chapter about Nina. I was happy to see that Meredith did indeed marry her 'friend' Jeff, but it saddened me that there seemed to be trouble in the marriage and they had drifted apart. Nina's life sounds crazy! To travel the world taking pictures of war and terribly tragic events doesn't sound like fun at all. It seems Danny, Nina’s long-time boyfriend, is ready to take their relationship to the next level but Nina can't commit that much of herself. I was also sad that their father became ill and ultimately passes away after making Meredith promise to take care of their mother and making Nina promise to make their mother tell them the end of the fairy tale. Nina left shortly after the funeral and Meredith worked herself too hard both in the orchard business and taking care of their mother. Page 115 - It seems that Nina is selfish and I feel sorry for Meredith. Meredith is the one who has always been there for her parents, living in a house right down the road and helping her father run the orchard while Nina has been jetting around the world to different locations as a photographer. Chapter 7 ended with a phone call from Meredith to Nina. Meredith was going to tell her sister that she needed to come home; that she needed help! This didn’t happen. Chapter 8 to Chapter 11 – Anya is just beginning to tell her daughters the 'fairy tale' after abandoning the story for years, since the incident with the play. Jeff has moved out of the house because Meredith is too distant and wouldn’t even answer him after he asked her if she still loved him.Page 266 – While going through her father’s papers, Meredith discovered a letter from a Russian professor to her mother. The professor was writing about the German siege of Leningrad, which was otherwise known as the “Great Terror”. The girls are trying to find the professor to get to the bottom of their mother’s true identity. They find out that the professor is in an Alaskan nursing home after suffering from a stroke. They are taking their mother on an Alaskan cruise; something their father always meant to do. Both Meredith and Nina seem to be at a crossroads in their lives compounded by the death of their father who they both loved so much and were so committed to especially given the aloofness and hostility of their mother. Meredith is searching for what SHE wants from life and Nina can’t commit to her boyfriend even after he asks her to marry him. I became so engrossed in this story that sometimes it was hard to remember it was just that, a story!I have to admit, I was hesitant to read the last part of this book. I just knew that the rest of Anya’s story was going to be heartbreaking. Truthfully, I probably wouldn’t have even started reading this book if I had known there were going to be so many graphic details about the war. I have trouble reading about World War II and it’s probably because my dad was in this war and I saw how it affected him. While the ending is painful and the completion of the ‘fairy tale’ is heartbreaking, it also portrays love in all of its forms. Words taken from the cover, this book is “evocative, lyrically written, and ultimately uplifting, it will haunt the reader long after the last page is turned.” I couldn’t agree more! Rarely does the ending of a book leave me feeling so satisfied and this book has one of the best endings I have ever read. Yes, I do feel sympathetic toward Anya after finishing this book! The reasons why she acted so cold to her daughters were quite clear by the end of the book. A great read that I highly recommend!