I was rather disappointed in this book, which I read for an online book discussion (and probably would not have chosen otherwise). The first part of the book feels like a lot of chick lit (not my favorite genre), with a rather dysfunctional family. Anya, a Russian immigrant, has just lost her husband Evan, but she has always been a cold, distant mother. Her two daughters are also stereotypes. Meredith is the long-suffering (and insufferable) older sister who is the responsible one that married her childhood sweetheart, Jeff, and stayed home to help run her father's Central Washington apple orchard. Nina is the globe-hopping photojournalist free-spirit (and also insufferable) younger sister, who can't seem to settle down.
After Evan's death, Anya seems to have a mental breakdown, as one day Meredith finds her tearing off the wallpaper in the house and purposely cutting her fingers. This sets up a dispute between the sisters, as Meredith puts Anya in a nursing home, but Nina pulls her out.
Before his death, Evan tries to get Anya to tell the "rest" of the "fairy tale" she was never able to finish telling in their daughters' childhood. Fairy tale is a misnomer - it's the story of Anya's life before coming to America, during the Siege of Leningrad. These flashbacks to the past made for a much better tale than the contemporary storyline.
It's obvious that Hannah researched the Siege, and I think if she'd stuck to the historical fiction, I would have liked this book better. Additionally, for someone who supposedly specializes in writing about the Pacific Northwest (where I lived for 21 years), I didn't get the feel for Central Washington that I'd hoped to from this book.
I found the ending to be a bit too neat and unrealistic. A better book for some of the issues Anya faced was Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum. A better book about the Siege of Leningrad was The Madonnas of Leningrad by Debra Dean.
© Amanda Pape - 2012
[This book was borrowed from and returned to my local public library.]