Blackberry Winter by Sarah Jio
My rating: 5 stars
Overview from Goodreads: Seattle, 1933. Single
mother Vera Ray kisses her three-year-old son, Daniel, goodnight and
departs to work the night-shift at a local hotel. She emerges to
discover that a May-Day snow has blanketed the city, and that her son
has vanished. Outside, she finds his beloved teddy bear lying face-down
on an icy street, the snow covering up any trace of his tracks, or the
Seattle, 2010. Seattle Herald reporter Claire
Aldridge, assigned to cover the May 1 "blackberry winter" storm and its
twin, learns of the unsolved abduction and vows to unearth the truth. In
the process, she finds that she and Vera may be linked in unexpected
You all know how much I love Sarah Jio as an author. I've read her books, The Violets of March, and The Bungalow, I even talked to her on the phone during book club, and I can't say enough good things about her. I loved The Violets of March, and compared reading The Bungalow to the excitement of a second date. But her third book - Blackberry Winter - surpassed them both.
This story was so powerful I get tears in my eyes simply thinking about it.
I related to both the main characters (Vera and Claire) in very different ways, even though they were in different eras and struggling with different issues. Sarah Jio has a way of making her characters so real you feel like you're with them. There were times I could almost feel the warmth of a mug as Claire drank hot cocoa, or the worry Vera carried about money during the Great Depression - the story enveloped me from the beginning and over a week later I don't yet want to leave that cocoon.
I'm not telling you a whole lot about the plot because I don't want to give anything away but there were so many deep issues touched on in this story - love, class differences, money, marriage, children - I didn't expect them to all fit together so seamlessly but they did.
One of my favorite parts of the book was halfway through when a few familiar characters made a quick cameo (I'm not giving you anymore details - you'll have to read to find out who it is!), and I read this quote:
" '...contrary to what most people think, the definition of a true friend is not someone who swoops in when you're going through a rough patch.' She shook her head. 'Anyone could do that. True friendship,' she says, 'is when someone can appreciate your happiness - celebrate your happiness, even - when she's not necessarily happy herself.' " (pg 141)
After reading that I had to put the book down because I started crying - it resonated so much with me. Ever since being diagnosed with PCOS I've been afraid there would be times I wouldn't be happy for someone in my life who was pregnant - I never wanted to be the person who was jealous or bitter. So far that hasn't happened (remember how much I loved that baby shower), and I love that I can be happy for others, especially when they're experiencing what we so desperately want. That quote made me happy and proud and so grateful that I can go back to read it in print over and over again.
The beauty of this story haunts me. I absolutely cannot recommend it enough.
Have you read Blackberry Winter or anything else by Sarah Jio? What did you think? (No spoilers in the comments, please!)