Review: Blackberry Winter by Sarah Jio

Book Title/Author: Blackberry Winter by Sarah Jio
Publisher/Year
:  Plume 2012
Genre: Mystery/historical fiction – Adult Fiction
Series
: No
Other Books From Author: The Violets of March, The Bungalow

Amazon| Goodreads | Sarah Jio’s website |

I checked this out from my wonderful library. LIBRARIES ARE COOL, y’all!

 

 

 

Told in alternating perspectives, Blackberry Winter tells the story of two woman, decades apart, but whose stories become intertwined when a freak weather phenomenon in May, a blackberry winter, unearths an unsolved kidnapping from the 1930s. Vera Ray is a single mother who is struggling to pay rent with her low paying job as a maid at a ritzy hotel. With no way to pay for childcare, she tucks her three year old son in bed to work the night shift, only to return home to discover that there has been a freak snowstorm and Daniel has gone missing with only his favorite teddy bear left behind. Almost 80 years later, Claire, a reporter and wife in the midst of a failing marriage, wakes up to Seattle covered in snow and her boss wanting a great feature connecting the blackberry winter of today to the one in 1933. Claire finds the story of the missing child that went unsolved and sets out to find out what happened as Vera’s story becomes personal to her — even more so than she’d ever realized.

I really, really loved Blackberry Winter! It was a captivating story that and has made me a huge Sarah Jio fan with just one book. The way the two women’s stories were intertwined and told in alternating chapters really worked for me as I learned more about each women & their life in smaller pieces — which really piled on the suspense! I was so invested in both Vera & Claire’s stories that I’d finish one chapter and be all, “Oh man! I don’t want to switch perspectives” but then immediately be absorbed in the other woman’s story.I loved learning about Vera’s back story and how she became a single mother (umm rather swoony and then completely heartbreaking) while simultaneously learning more about what happened to her and Daniel through Claire’s investigation. That storyline REALLY got to me and Sarah Jio knows how to deliver bits of answers in a way that you can’t help but hastily read because you really care so much about what happened.

I was afraid I wasn’t going to really connect with Claire with the nature of the fact that so much of what she does in the book is help us learn more about Vera and Daniel but Sarah Jio really made her into a character I loved as she had so many of her own heartbreaking issues to deal with that really drew her to this story. While obviously her investigation about Vera was the shining storyline, I thought that Claire’s marital issues and the unfortunate accident that happened in their life was really interesting and I loved the healing that went on throughout the story in different ways. The only thing that I will say is that sometimes I thought things were a little bit too much of a coincidence but not in a way that really detracted from the story at all. But besides that, this book was fantastic & I’ll be reading all of her books!

 

Blackberry Winter was the perfect blend of mystery and historical fiction, laced with romance, and a serious page-turner. The  pieces of the mystery were revealed in that way that just makes on ravenous and the two intertwined stories were heartbreaking and beautiful. Truly a moving story that will leave you a bit misty-eyed while reading about Vera’s story — both through the back story & Claire’s investigation. Sarah Jio has just such smooth & exquisite writing — the unraveling of the mystery, the scenes that make your heart ache, the amazing characterization & more — it was just all so deftly and wonderfully written. Even if you typically don’t read adult fiction, I’d recommend still checking this one out!

 

You May Also Like: Kate MortonLucinda Riley, The Bird Sisters by Rebecca Rassmussen (it has that some sort of amazingly revealed mystery without being an overly “mystery” book — great characters, stories that make a mark on your heart, etc). 

 

Let’s Talk: Have you read this one? Heard of it? Did you guess how they were tied together? Have you read either of Sarah Jio’s other novels?  Which one should I tackle next?

four-stars

A Long Long Time Ago & Essentially True by Brigid Pasulka

Title/Author: A Long Long Time Ago & Essentially True by Brigid Pasulka
Publisher/Year: Mariner Books 2009
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
How I Got This Book: I got it from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

I love when you read a book thinking that it will probably be just a decent read but you begin to read and realize that you have a gem in your hands–a gem that you end up really loving. A Long Long Time Ago & Essentially True was that kind of experience for me.

Pasulka skillfully intertwines the two threads of the story until they become one–inextricably bound by Poland’s history and the hope of a better future. The stories are told in alternating chapters. I’ve read books where the transitions feels awkward and jumbled and I find myself forgetting or getting bored with one storyline. Pasulka delicately handled these transitions in a way that made sense. She ended the chapters right where they needed to end and I was able to effortlessly glide through the book. I really appreciated this.

The first of the story lines revolves around Pigeon and Anielica Hetmanski and their love story which is sweet and innocent but tragic in ways. The progression of their relationship was one of my favorite parts of the story. Their love story is forever changed by World War II (this isn’t a war story, I promise) as they must deal with the immediate dangers of war along with the rebuilding in the aftermath. The second storyline springs forward to modern Poland with Baba Yaga (the granddaughter of Anielica) as she comes to the city after the death of her grandmother and tries to grapple with her culture and finding her place in Krakow. Baba Yaga is a endearing heroine in my mind as she grows. I found her so relateable as a young woman–she isn’t strong in a traditional sense, she isn’t sure about herself or her future, and she sells her self short time and time again.

My only major qualm with this gem of a book is this: I don’t mind when an author sprinkles the native language of the characters into the narrative as long as I am able to deduce the meaning of the word from the “context clues.” (oh hey there 5th grade language lessons.) I feel like the author used way too many Polish words and it wasn’t always clear what they meant.

I would highly recommend this debut novel. Her writing is magical in itself and her characters are alive and complex. There are beautiful little mini love stories throughout but not in the mushy gushy way–so real you could mistake them for the stories of your own grandparents or great grandparents. This book is full of wit, wisdom, and hope–all needed to balance the heartbreak and tragedy. It pays homage to the lives of those who had to live through the War/Communist regime and the generation who had to move forward with those pieces.

You will be moved. I’m just warning you.

*THIS REVIEW WAS ORIGINALLY POSTED ON 7/15 but WordPress ate it when I transferred from Blogger to WP. BOO.*

 

four-stars

Review: The Bird Sisters by Rebecca Rasmussen

The Bird Sisters: A NovelBook/Author: The Bird Sisters by Rebecca Rasmussen
Publisher/Year: Crown Publishing April 2011
I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Spinster sisters, Milly and Twiss,  are known as “the bird sisters” and their home serves as a place where people bring injured birds to be nursed back to health. The “bird sisters” weren’t always destined towards a path of seclusion and spinsterhood…until one summer that alters the direction of their lives.

The story gracefully moves between the present and haunting memories from their childhood. The bulk of the memories take place in the span of the summer of 1947 when Milly and Twiss are teenagers and becomes the turning point to paving the path that leads to where they are now as spinsters. Immediately I was invested in the lives of Milly and Twiss and had such a desire to know how they ended up so alone when it seemed like they had a lot going for them. I think that was the most heart-wrenching part– knowing how they ended up and needing to find out why. The details of the events that summer were revealed ever so carefully and evenhandedly that it kept you reeling until you are given the answers to what had happened. And let me tell you– it was shocking, heartbreaking and beautiful — simultaneously. I had goosebumps as we finally learned what happened in the most pivotal moment that summer.

Milly and Twiss are two of the most quirky and unforgettable characters that I’ve encountered in a while. They were developed so finely and with great precision and I just fell completely in love with them. I found a lot of the other characters to be interesting as well. Cousin Bett was that character that you just wanted to slap silly yet I kept wondering what her story was. The characters personalities were so perfectly melded together with the plot that I just kept thinking of how perfect of a book this was. Milly and Tilly are definitely the shining stars but what I loved is that they aren’t always brave, or always right or strong…they were so real and were perfect in their own ways.

For the most part I can honestly say this book was flawless for me, but I must confess, there were a few parts where it took me a little bit to figure out if we were back in the past or in the present although I was able to deduce after a page or so. The parts in the present, in the heads of the older Milly and Twiss, were a little slower moving for me but it definitely balanced out the story well.

My Final Thought:
I would recommend this to anybody looking for the perfect combination of unforgettable characters, a carefully crafted and revealed plot with a layer of surprises and undeniably beautiful prose that you find yourself savoring with each page. Seriously, this book charmed the socks off of me, broke my heart and mentally shelving this book under “books that remind me why I love the written word.” It wasn’t overwrought in emotion or drama nor was it the type of book that was trying too hard to BE something profound. It felt real and was definitely a breath of fresh air for me.

four-stars
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...