Winter Garden Discussion 2

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.

Thanks to The Many Thoughts of A Reader for hosting the April book club! 
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Winter Garden-Discussion 1

So far I’ve really enjoyed this book. There’s not a lot of drama in it but there is a lot of emotion, both spoken and unspoken. Kristin Hannah paints a picture of a family desperately trying to find their way through the tragedy of the death of their father while at the same time deal with the tragedy of a crumbling family unit. Each person is struggling in their own way and I have wondered throughout the first half of this book, how they will finally find a way to be there for each other. It is plain to see that the fairy tale and the winter garden are the common ground but it seems as if Meredith, Nina and their mother are not quite ready to accept that.The Whitson women are all so stubborn and strong willed that they refuse to let themselves feel anything but anger. But eventually a person has to break to heal.

Questions by The Many Thoughts of A Reader

1. How do you think the peasant and prince fairy tale ends? If you finished, what were your guesses?

I’m not sure how it will end but I have a strong feeling that the story is parallel to Anya’s own life in some way and that will be Meredith and Nina’s key to understanding their mother.

2. Will Nina stay or go?

I believe that Nina will stay. She has something to prove to Meredith and her stubbornness will keep her around.

3.What do you think Mere and Jeff need to do to save their relationship? Is it worth saving?

Jeff wants to feel that his wife needs him and until Meredith can share her burdens with him and allow him to be there for her and comfort her, it won’t be able to work. If Mere can let her guard down and admit to Jeff that she can’t always do it all alone, then I think they can save their marriage. They both still love each other so yes, it’s worth saving.

4. Meredith and Nina are both reluctant to let the men in their lives help them through a difficult time, yet both are suffering from the grief caused by the death of their father. Do you think this is something they’ve inherited from their mother? In what other ways are they similar to their mother? Do you think it’s impossible to avoid becoming like the people who raised you?

They were raised by a strong willed woman. The only person their mother let in was her husband which is why I find it odd that the girls can’t find comfort in their own men. Their father was the only person who could comfort their mother and get through to her so it seems as if Meredith and Nina would be more likely to turn to their significant others for support and shut everyone else as, just as their mother has done.

5. This novel explores a complicated and strained relationship between two sisters. Do you think Meredith is justified in being so angry with Nina? In what ways are the sisters different and in what ways are they alike?

Meredith and Nina’s frustration toward each other stems from misunderstanding and miscommunication. Each woman copes with things in their own way and neither is very tolerant of the other. There is a sense that Meredith envies Nina’s free lifestyle because Meredith has been stuck in one place her whole life. Nina, on the other hand, envies Meredith’s ability to ‘handle everything.’ They need to recognize each others strengths and see that they both have something good to bring to the table.  

A collection of paper flowers

It poured all night and it’s still raining today. We’re supposed to get rain all weekend. With April showers comes May flowers, so I thought I’d share with you some of my favorite paper flower DIYs in case you want to get a jump on May and create your own arrangement.

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Also remember that tomorrow is the first discussion for the April book club hosted by The Many Thoughts of A Reader.

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We’ve been reading Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah and the first discussion will cover chapters 1 through 10. Stop back in tomorrow to see the discussion questions.