If I could give this book more than 5 stars, I would. It was excellent, and I’m embarrassed to admit that it’s the first book I’ve read by this popular author. I read it for a library book club and wasn’t sure how I would feel about it. I found the story picked up for me toward the middle. From that point on, I couldn’t put it down.
The story centers around two sisters, Meredith and Nina, and their relationship to their parents. The sisters have very different personalities. Meredith helps her father run the family business, an orchard, along with her husband, Jeff. Their grown children are in college. Nina is a photojournalist who travels to war-torn countries and has won awards for her photography. In her late thirties, she still hasn’t settled down but has an Irish boyfriend.
The women share a great love of their father but have not had a close relationship with their mother, Anya, who they know little about except that she’s Russian. The closest they’ve been to her is when she’s told them a fairytale about a peasant girl and a prince. But when Meredith staged a play about the fairytale, Anya reacts angrily and refuses to continue the tale. When their father dies, he asks them both to take care of Anya and requests that Nina ask her mother to tell the whole fairytale. Nina has no idea why but wants to satisfy his dying wish.
The story then alternates between the present and Anya’s recitation of the fairytale. Without giving spoilers, the sisters discover that there’s more to the fairytale than they believed. Once told, it changes their view of their mother and their relationship with her, with their loved ones, and with each other.
I loved the way the “fairytale” was told, the depiction of Russia during Stalin’s reign and World War II, and the way the author captured the beauty and vastness of current-day Alaska in the final part of the book. I recommend this highly for historical fiction fans and those who enjoy relationship stories. Don’t forget to bring a tissue with you as you read because you’ll shed tears of both sadness and joy. This will be a book you won’t quickly forget and one that is great for discussion.