Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Book Review: The Winters in Bloom, by Lisa Tucker

The Winters in Bloom
by Lisa Tucker
Atria Books, an imprint of Simon and Schuster  
288 pages 

We all know parents like David and Kyra Winters, people whose overprotective nature causes them to obsess about every possible slight or harm that could befall their child. We might roll our eyes at such people, scoff at them behind their back, think that they've come unhinged.

But underneath the hyper-vigilant exterior there is usually a buried trove of emotions pointing to the reasons for such concerns.  In the case of David and Kyra, significant losses from years past are the reason  for their overbearing protectiveness with their only son, Michael.  One day, when Kyra turns her head for a brief few moments, all the precautions in the world aren't enough to prevent someone from snatching Michael from the safety of his own fenced-in backyard.

This incident comes very early on in the book. While keeping her reader in suspense and second-guessing about who kidnapped Michael and why (and providing a "whoa, I didn't see that coming at ALL!" type of plot twist), Lisa Tucker does a masterful job of unraveling the secrets in both Kyra and David's pasts.  In doing so, she illuminates how the unspoken and unresolved lifelong sorrows, losses, doubts, and fears that we bring to our relationships as adults can and do impact our lives, individually and as a couple. (I know we're not supposed to quote from e-galleys, which this was, but one of the lines I highlighted on my Kindle is about how every marriage has three stories: the wife's, the husband's, and the story that is created when these two stories try to live side by side. So very true. Love that.)

The Winters in Bloom is a well-written, rich, and complex book where the reader is truly able to get to the heart of the main characters.  Whereas you start the book thinking that Kyra and David are nuts for being so overbearing, their reasons for protecting their son become understandable as you learn their history.  And as you do, you become drawn into the novel so deeply that it becomes hard to put the book down.

Although this is her sixth novel, Lisa Tucker is a new author to me. As a Philadelphia native, I love books that are set in my hometown, which is what initially attracted me (along with the plot) to The Winters in Bloom.  (And when the author lives in the Philadelphia area, as Lisa Tucker does, then that's even more of a bonus.)  The downside of this is, I admit, that I tend to read such Philly-based books a bit more critically than others.  While the region isn't showcased in this one as much as I would have preferred, I found most of the details offered to be authentic and true.  Lisa Tucker knows that downtown Philadelphia is known as Center City (as opposed to my current audiobook, Freedom by Jonathan Franzen, who refers to the same location as "the center of Philadelphia." No, no, and no). Tucker also knows that West Mount Airy is akin to a small suburb within the city's borders and knows the distinctive architecture of the homes there.

However, one of my pet peeves did surface: the spelling of Bucks County as Buck's County. Grrr. Still, just a very minor quibble there, especially since there were two Philly in-jokes that gave me a smile. The first: Kyra muses briefly on why every guy she meets seems to like "The Three Stooges." In my experience, that's particularly true in Philadelphia - which I attribute to Larry Fine (who played Larry) being from Philadelphia.  The second in-joke that I caught is David's mother wishing she was an Olympic swimmer (as a girl), but never being able to catch the star of the local swim team, Debbie Rendell.  That has got to be a nod to former Mayor of Philadelphia (and former Governor of Pennsylvania) Ed Rendell, often referred to as "Fast Eddie."  

Lisa Tucker is definitely a talented writer, and much of the strength of The Winters in Bloom comes from her personal story. While in the midst of writing this novel, Lisa was diagnosed with a brain aneurysm  and she actually postponed surgery in order to complete what could have been her last novel.  The result is a much more brighter and optimistic novel (and, thankfully, a positive recovery for Lisa). Initially, the title was The House of Doubt (which Kyra and David's home certainly is) but The Winters in Bloom captures the growth of this couple, both as individuals and as parents.

Yesterday (9/13/2011) was the publication date for The Winters in Bloom. I was sent an advance e-galley of this novel by the publisher, via NetGalley, for the purpose of providing an honest review.  I was not compensated in any way and I extend my thanks and appreciation to NetGalley and Atria Books for this opportunity to share my thoughts and impressions of this book.  

Lisa Tucker's website is here, along with information on ordering or downloading The Winters in Bloom. 

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Anonymous said...

"Helicopter" parents freak me out. That's not in my nature at all. I think this one would elicit a powerful reaction so I would like to read it at some point.

Susan G. Weidener said...

When I was reading your review, I thought of this: the importance of editing cannot be underestimated. Buck's County vs. Bucks County - Yikes. Let's hope it was a typo. I work with many writers here in suburban Philadelphia who think they can cut corners when it comes to editing. This is a mistake. When I self-published, I hired a content editor and a copy editor; this even though I am a professional editor. You put your heart and soul into a book. While nothing is perfect, everything needs to be vetted many times by many different eyes.

Jenny said...

I love when books can really showcase a location or at least let you relate in the way this did. Of course, it would have all gone over my head, lol. I read Once Upon a Day a long time ago and adored it. Then I read another of her books and was so disappointed in it that I just didn't read any more. I don't remember why I was disappointed, but maybe it was a mistake to not read any more as this one sounds great!