Thursday, April 21, 2011

Catching Up!

I have been lost in the early 1800' s for a few days with my genealogy research and have neglected to keep up with my book blogging!  I have read several books and am dragging myself away from the 1800's to catch up with my present!

Two of the books were for each of my book groups.  Unfortunately I had to miss book group when they  discussed Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah.  I was really disappointed that I missed the meeting because I was anxious to discuss the book with them!

Winter Garden begins with two young sisters who, along with their friend Jeff,  are putting on a play, re-enacting a story that their mother has ofter told them.  The girls, Meredith and Nina, observe their Russian born mother, Anya, become angry and upset and watch her walk away.  Anya often tells them stories about a young girl and a prince.  The girls thought that their mother would be pleased that they were putting on a play of the story.  The relationship between the young girls and Anya is complicated.  Anya appears to be quite cold and un-involved with the children. However, their father, Evan, has always been their constant. The girls are never able to understand the love between Evan and Anya, when he is so warm and caring and she is so cold.

The girls grow up and live their separate lives.  Nina becomes a photographer journalist and travels the world, keeping herself unattached emotionally.  Meredith marries Jeff, the friend who was also in the play as a child, and they have 2 children now in college.  Meredith works with her father in the family business.   Unexpectedly, Evan becomes ill and on his deathbed he makes Anya promise to tell the girls the ending of the fairy tale story that she would tell them as children.  However, Anya never told them the ending of the story.

The story Anya tells is about a young girl in war-torn Leningrad sixty years earlier.  As Anya slowly tells them pieces of the story, the daughters begin to wonder if it is Anya's story.  Nina and Meredith begin to research those times and begin to uncover their mother's past.

This quote from the back of the book kind of sums all of it up:
How can a woman know herself...if she doesn't really know her mother?
Makes you think, doesn't it?

I have to admit that I really liked this book, except for the ending.  The last chapter, Chapter 26, throws in an ending that I just found too unbelievable.  I guess that I don't want to go into it and spoil the read for others, but if anyone has read this book, I would be interested in anyone else's take on it.  I would and do recommend the was a good read and I thought it did a good job exploring mother-daughter/mother-child relationships.  I will definitely read more of Ms. Hannah's books.

Next I read Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese.  Outstanding book.  I can't even say enough about how good this book is.  And the funny/odd thing is that I totally resisted reading it   It came out two years ago and I would pick it up every once in awhile at the book store, look at it, and put it down.  Fortunately for me, my book group chose it for the April reading, so I read it!

It is a rather long book and I am not sure that I would be able to do it any justice in trying to tell you the story.  The book is really the story about several people and they could all be books by themselves.  As a teaser, I will tell you that it is basically the story of twin boys, Marion and Shiva who were born attached at the head.  Their parents were an Indian nun, Sister Mary Joseph Praise and a British surgeon, Dr. Thomas Stone.  The twins were born in Ethiopia, which is where most of the story takes place.

It is a story of love, medicine, betrayal and grief as the book follows the two boys throughout their lives.

If you are looking for a great book to read, add this to your list!!!

I just finished The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton.  It is another long book, but a good story.  I enjoyed it alot.  It is the story of a very young girl who is abandoned on a ship from England headed to Australia.  All she arrives with is a small white suitcase that contains some clothes and an illustrated book of fairy tales.  When she arrives in Australia, she is all alone and the dock master takes her home, expecting to find out who is looking for her.  However, that doesn't happen and so he and his wife raise the little girl and call her "Nell".  When Nell turns twenty-one, she is told by her parents that she is not their child and she is informed of the circumstances.  Nell begins to search for her identity, going to England and learning some information about her birth family.  Nell decides to go back to Australia and pack her things and go to England to live.  However, once she returns to Australia, her estranged daughter shows up and leaves Nell's young granddaughter, Cassandra, to live with Nell.  So Nell never returns to England and never tells anyone about her search.  Upon Nell's death, Cassandra finds out pieces and takes up the search.

The story is a good mystery, with some genealogical searching going on...just my cup of tea, as the English would say!