Review: Blackberry Winter by Sarah Jio

Title: Blackberry Winter

Author: Sarah Jio

Genre/Pages: Fiction/320

Publisher: Plume

Publish Date:  September 25, 2012

Rating: 3.5 bookmarks

Source: courtesy of the publisher

Nat’s One-Sentence Synopsis: In her third novel, Sarah Jio employs a spring snowstorm as the catalyst of a dual timeline story about two women, separated by 77 years, who both experienced the loss of a child. 

A freak snowstorm in May 2010 sends Seattle reporter Claire Aldridge into the newspaper archives to find a story about the last May blizzard–back in 1933.  While sifting through past, Claire happens upon a story of a little boy who went missing during the storm.  The story resonates with Claire–she’s suffered a loss of her own–and she takes it upon herself to solve the mystery.

This is Seattle during the Blizzard of 1916 (a touch of artistic license on my part)

Sarah Jio shifts the thread of the story between two characters: present day’s Claire and 1933’s Vera Ray.  Both women suffered the loss of their sons, but Claire has the power and tenacity to uncover the mystery of Daniel’s disappearance and return him, albeit symbolically, to Vera.  Through her efforts, Claire finds her own way back to the world of the living after spending more than a year in a state of grief and mourning.

The only clue Vera found was her son’s teddy bear in the snow outside the rooming house where they lived.

With only a few clues at her disposal, she undertakes Vera Ray’s cause like a crusade, stopping at nothing to unearth the past and find out the truth about what happened to Daniel.  When several parallels between her life and Vera’s are discovered, Claire wonders if she, Vera, and Daniel are more closely connected than she ever considered.

I thoroughly enjoyed Blackberry Winter and read it in one sitting.  The novel is one of family, hope, and overcoming personal struggles.  Jio’s writing can be lyrical, but as in her other novels, I struggled a bit with the numerous coincidences and connections.  I was able to figure out the mystery fairly early on, but the story still held me, carrying me along with the interesting historical references and the relationships and conflicts between the characters.  I genuinely liked Vera and Claire and was happy with the resolution of the novel.

This novel would be a great book club selection or would be a nice choice for anyone who likes dual story lines and the interconnectedness of life and families.  The cover is gorgeous and Sarah Jio really does tell a good story.   She explains her inspiration for the title and premise, and I enjoyed reading how a song and colloquialism led her to write this novel.

12 Comments

  • At 2012.10.09 18:10, bermudaonion(Kathy) said:

    Most plots do rely on coincidences – for some reason I can accept them in some stories and I reject them in others. This sounds really good to me!
    bermudaonion(Kathy)´s last blog post ..Review: The Mermaid Collector

    • At 2012.10.10 20:41, Natalie said:

      Kathy, it really was a good read–I think I was disappointed because some major reveals were foreshadowed too much.

    • At 2012.10.09 18:24, Ti said:

      I felt that the plot was predictable but I too, enjoyed reading it. She does tell a story well. With three books all delving into the past, I am hoping she shakes it up a bit with her next one.
      Ti´s last blog post ..What? Monday already?

      • At 2012.10.10 20:39, Natalie said:

        I also read her other two novels and enjoyed them but am hoping she’ll shake up the formula a bit next time around.

      • At 2012.10.10 09:38, Jenners said:

        I love how you used photos to enhance your review
        Jenners´s last blog post ..Gone Girl, The Marriage Plot, The 500, The Taker Mini Reviews

        • At 2012.10.10 20:38, Natalie said:

          I do like to break up the blah blah blah of my reviews with photos. Sometimes I find solid blocks of text reviews daunting–it must be my ADD.

        • At 2012.10.10 13:42, Kelly said:

          Thanks for the review! I’ve been hearing more and more good things about this book, and I can’t wait to get my hands on it.
          Kelly´s last blog post ..Book Review: Every Day by David Levithan

          • At 2012.10.10 20:37, Natalie said:

            You should pick it up–I saw that it hit USA Today’s top seller list today. 🙂

          • At 2012.10.13 22:33, softdrink said:

            I read her last book and really enjoyed it, but I’m usually not a fan of dual timeline stories, so I’ve avoided this one.
            softdrink´s last blog post ..American Psycho

            • At 2012.10.19 09:45, Beth F said:

              Love your visuals! I too figured out most of the mystery pretty early on, but the characters and writing were so good that I didn’t mind at all.
              Beth F´s last blog post ..Imprint Friday: Harvest by Richard Horan

              • At 2012.10.25 14:02, Lynette said:

                Thanks so much for the review! I’m looking forward to reading it!
                Oh, and I LOVE the pictures you use, it’s looks so cool!

                • At 2012.10.26 22:57, Holly (2 Kids and Tired) said:

                  I loved The Violets of March, so I’m excited to know this one is out. Thanks for the honest review. The photos are a terrific addition.

                  2 Kids and Tired Books
                  Holly (2 Kids and Tired)´s last blog post ..A Promise to Love…Review

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