December 27, 2013

Review: Blackberry Winter by Sarah Jio

Book Cover

Blackberry Winter
Sarah Jio
Published: Plume (Penguin) 2012
Format: Paperback 286 pages
Genre: Historical/Contemporary
Source: Own book
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 perpetrator's.

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 ways...
My thoughts
This is a dual narrative book, partly set back in the 1930's and partly set in the present day.  Vera is struggling in the Depression, she must leave her child alone while she goes out to work. My heart went out to Vera, a wonderful mother who deeply loved her child.  Her life is juxtaposed with the rich who seemingly have no care for those less fortunate.

Claire too has lost a child, when she is assigned to the "blackberry winter" story, she feels a deep connection, that sparks her back into life, after an incredibly hard year. Her relationship with her husband is faltering, the stress of losing a child has driven them apart.  Ethan and Claire love one another, but will their marriage survive this deep grief?

This story is a mystery, as the reader is not given all the clues as the story opens.  We don't even know how Claire and Ethan lost their child.  Slowly piece by piece the story is revealed.  Each little clue is significant.  The first clue I picked up was that the Seattle Herald did not publish the story of the lost child in 1933.  Slowly all is revealed, the pieces come together to a very bittersweet conclusion.  It was satisfying, but I needed to reach for the tissues!

Beautifully written, very compassionate towards parents who lose children, helping those of us who haven't to feel some of the heartbreak such parents experience.  I will be reading more of Sarah Jio's novels.
5 stars

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