From the start, "How To Hide In Winter" is strong on atmosphere: isolated - cold - damaged and with more damage to come - a history like a shadow beneath the ice on the lake.
The story is told through the eyes Kathleen, a young woman working alone in the only store still open in the National Park on the Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania in the depths of winter. She spends most of her day alone, reading and thinking.
Then "The Stranger" arrives, a lone Uzbekistani man, not dressed for winter, not sure of where he is or why.
She's trying to pretend she doesn't limp and isn't in pain from her injuries. He's scrupulously polite and unaggressive, trying hard to be invisible. Both of them are tantalisingly unexplained.
What follows is a powerful, beautifully written, deeply thoughtful novel that tackles raw emotions and complicated ideas without ever becoming dry or self-consciously literary.
On the surface, "Ways To Hide In Winter" could be seen as one of those woman-with-dark-secrets-in-her-past thrillers. If that's what you're looking for, this book will disappoint you. It's not a thriller nor a simple narrative about discovering the dark secrets in the pasts of the two main characters. It's a deeply meditative book, filled with the cold silence of winter and the slowly thawing emotions of rage and compassion of a woman who has been abused and traumatised.
Winter is central to the feel of this book. The physical winter in the Appalachians in Pennsylvania is almost a character in its own right: bleak but beautiful, familiar but deadly, ubiquitous and inescapable. It is also an extended metaphor for the emotional state of the two main characters, each with their own story of abuse, betrayal, secret shame and physical and emotional trauma that have left them scarred, isolated and trying to hide from their futures as much as from their pasts.
Like water beneath the layer of ice on the lake, Kathleen's emotions run deep, slow and cold. Her rage is fierce but struggling to find expression. It is the fevered heat experienced by the hypothermic as they struggle to survive the cold.
She is consumed with a quiet, barely contained rage. She rages at how her community is treated by the government:
“They sold us pain and said it was fine... They had such contempt for us, and they thought we didn’t see it. Just because we lived where we lived and were who we were.”
Rage at those in power, in Uzbekistan and in the US, who use torture, pain and humiliation to punish their enemies.
Rage at her recently deceased, violently abusive husband. Rage at all those who failed her: her parents, her priest, herself.
There is the possibility of hope, of support from her best friend and from men who are interested in her but she finds hope hard to trust, partly because she is not sure that she deserves it.
There is guilt and shame: her addiction to painkillers, her belief that everyone holds her accountable for her husband's death. There is responsibility for her sick grandmother. And there is, eventually, compassion, initially for The Stranger and finally for herself as she slowly and carefully considers what a person deserves.
The Stranger gives Kathleen another focus, someone as damaged and as vulnerable than she is. Someone quiet and indirect who may have done shameful things but who shows her only gentleness. Someone who makes her think about what living means. Through her contact with him, she starts to understand that by continuing to hide she is refusing to live. Staying where she is just a slower death, not survival.
The language is simple, beautiful and powerful. The pace is slow but in a way that builds tension, grabs attention and makes you focus on what's really happening. It demonstrates a nuanced understanding of abuse and powerlessness and their impact on identity and will.
The ending of the book doesn't offer any easy solutions. It seems to say that we all of us go through more than one winter. We move between light and dark. Perhaps being alive is about keeping moving. Perhaps compassion for others can help thaw our personal winters. Perhaps compassion just mitigates our guilt. Perhaps staying hidden is unsustainable because it is an extended act of abnegation.
"Ways To Hide in Winter" is Sarah St, Vincent's first novel. I'll definitely be reading her second.
I listened to the audiobook version which was performed brilliantly by Sarah Mollo-Christensen. To hear a sample of her performance, click on the SoundCloud link below.
The MacGregors: Highland Heirs #8, I jumped into this series at the halfway point but it was okay because each book pretty much reads as a standalone. I love Paula Quinn's writing style it's part of the reason I keep coming back to her books, whatever trope she's using she has the MacGregors make it their own. Another reason I keep coming back is that I love this family. The MacGregors' are warm and welcoming to friends and are just as fierce warriors as they are fiercely loyal to those who prove they are worthy. The family also has very close, very secret ties to Queen Anne so when she orders Adam MacGregor, the reluctant heir of the clan, to marry one of her ladies in waiting they have no choice but to follow her orders. Melusina de Arenburg was raised for court life she was a trusted Lady in Waiting and the bastard daughter of the heir to the throne; part of keeping her safe was keeping her unclaimed. Sina looked upon Queen Anne as a best friend and an almost mother like figure so she couldn't understand it when Anne orders her to the Highlands to marry someone from a very infamous clan rather than the man she wants to marry.
Sina is pretty much a spoiled brat when she gets there, acting like she's the only one who had her life disrupted, once she realizes they aren't the barbarians she thought they were and that her new family isn't all that bad she starts to open her heart to Adam, who she finds attractive as much as she hates that she does. Adam is nothing but patient with her, he gets aggravated and pissed off but he sympathizes with her and he likes her. Eventually they start to warm up to each other and fall in love unfortunately Queen Anne dies not to long after the wedding and soon enough Sina's father sends for her and she has to go back to London where the marriage will be annulled.
The second half of this book takes place in London where Adam tries to prove he's worthy of staying married to Sina, but under the disguise of someone else. Sina also along the way learns some very disturbing news that makes her long for Adam all the more. Normally I don't care for the books that take place in the King/Queen's Court with all those people and their power hungry machinations and backstabbing not knowing who to trust but there are a few exceptions and this is one of them.
Overall, this was such a good book. I hate to see the MacGregors go I really hope this isn't the last of them and that maybe the next generation will be up to a few adventures.
This review can also be found at Pure Textuality PR.
This was a rather exciting romance. I have had a copy of this book for review for years and just never seemed to fit it into my reading schedule. I am glad I decided to finally pick it up because I ended up having a lot of fun with it. This is the second book in the Justiss Alliance series but I thought it worked great as a stand-alone. It was a pretty quick story that was filled with a lot of action. I didn’t want to put this book down once I started reading.
Mollie is trying to find her sister who has gone off with a motorcycle gang. Mollie fears that her sister is in danger and she will do whatever is necessary to bring her back to safety. Julian is a SEAL that just recently left active duty and is trying to adjust to life as a civilian. Julian crosses paths with Mollie outside of a biker bar and he knows immediately that she is in over her head so he decides to help.
This book is pretty exciting from the start. There are motorcycle chases, shootouts, and even some undercover operations worked into the story. I liked the fact that I was never sure what would happen next and there were some real surprises that popped up from time to time. The mystery was pretty complex and the group that they were up against was pretty brutal which only added to the excitement. There were times during the story that I couldn’t help but cringe at Mollie’s behavior since she was putting herself in a lot of danger when there was probably a better way to handle the situation.
I liked Mollie and Julian and thought that they worked well together. They had a lot of chemistry from the very start. Mollie was very loyal to her sister and family and had sacrificed a lot to try to find her sister. Julian felt compelled to keep Mollie safe and it really seemed like he could do just about anything. I thought that they made a great team together.
I would recommend this book to fans of romantic suspense. This was an exciting story with some pretty great characters. I thought that the book had a great combination of action and more tender scenes. I am pretty satisfied with the way everything worked out and wouldn’t hesitate to read more from Tina Wainscott.
I received a digital review copy of this book from Loveswept via NetGalley.
There was quite a bit of action in this book really from the very start. I liked Mollie and Julian right away and thought that they had excellent chemistry. Julian was wonderful and seemed to be able to do just about anything. There were a few times that it seemed like Mollie was putting herself in bad positions when maybe things could have been solved in a much better way. I was pretty satisfied with how everything worked out in the end.