Review: Blackberry Winter by Sarah Jio
Author: Sarah Jio
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.
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.
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was able to figure out the mystery fairly early on, but the story still held me, carrying me along with the interesting historical references and the relationships and conflicts between the characters.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.