The questions and answers:
1. Anya Whitson is color blind and cannot see the colors in her winter garden. Why do you think the author gave the character this particular trait? In what ways is it a metaphor for what Anya has gone through in her life? Do you believe it is a physiological blindness or a psychological one?
She’s chosen to be blind to everything that is happening in her life and to continue to live in the past. I think her color blindness is a psychological and physiological problem.
2. Memory is an important theme in Winter Garden. Meredith often regrets–when looking at old family photos taken without her–that she was often off organizing or obsessing over details, while everyone else was living in the moment, creating memories. How common is this for women and mothers? What memories keep your family together?
I think this is really common for women.. we seem to take on the role of memory keeper instead of memory maker in the family. Mothers are often trying to do it all and in the meantime they don’t slow down enough to just enjoy things.
3. Jeff tells Meredith that “words matter.” What are some examples of this throughout the story? How have words saved and harmed each of these characters’ lives? How has silence saved and harmed each of these characters’ lives? How do words—the telling of the fairy tale—change their individual and collective perceptions of who they are?
It’s obvious that words matter because the only thing that seems to calm the children down is when Anya tells them her fairytale. They have no hope and are starving to death but it is Anya’s stories that get them through it. Her words become important with Meredith and Nina only they don’t understand the importance until she finally tells the story to the end.
4. Anya is an unsympathetic character throughout much of the book. How did your perception of her change as the fairy tale unfolded? Did you end up sympathizing with her, or even liking her? Or do you feel that her treatment of her daughters was inexcusable, regardless of the hardships she had faced in her life? How do you think you would have fared in Leningrad under the siege? Was Anya heroic in Leningrad, or a failure?
I think that was her coping mechanism- shutting people out and being ‘tough.’ It was how she managed to survive the siege of Leningrad. But after she thought her family had been killed, she just put those walls up even thicker. I’m honestly wondering why Meredith and Nina’s father never explained to them why their mother was the way she was. I think Anya was heroic. She had many chances to give up and never did.
5. How did you feel about the ending? Why do you think the author chose the surprising meeting in Sitka?
It was far fetched but I’m glad she was able to end on a positive note.