01 October 2012

Review: Blackberry Winter by Sarah Jio

I'm picky about contemporary women's fiction because I have a difficult time connecting to the stereotypical twenty-something woman whose main goal in life is to find her Prince Charming.

Thus when I want a good story built around a mystery and trimmed with (yes) love, I turn to Sarah Jio. Her newest novel, Blackberry Winter, showcases her talent at weaving past and present to create an engaging tale featuring multidimensional characters.

Blackberry Winter, set in Seattle, takes place during the first week of May as the city copes with a freak late snowfall. In 1933 Vera Ray, an unwed mother of a much-loved toddler, does what's necessary to hold on to her job, pay her rent, and put food on the table, as the Depression settles in for the long haul. In the twenty-first century, Claire Aldridge is still grieving after an accident the previous spring changed her life forever. Once a crack feature writer, she now has to force herself to show up at the newspaper and barely speaks to her husband.

When her editor asks for a six-thousand-word article tying the two late-spring weather events together, Claire can't find the hook. But then she reads an archived news story about a how a three-year-old boy went missing during the first hours of the 1933 storm.The assignment reignites Claire's curiosity and the missing child touches her heart; she's determined to learn the fate of the boy and his mother.

Besides the underlying mystery of the missing child, Blackberry Winter explores several other issues.One of the most prominent is social class divisions. The 2010s and the 1930s share more than a coincidental late snowfall. Jio clearly articulates the insurmountable gap between rich and poor as it existed for Vera Ray in the early years of the Depression. As the rich drank Champagne and boated on the lake, hardworking citizens were losing their homes; readers cannot help but recognize the similarities to modern-day America.

As with Jio's earlier novels, Blackberry Winter is sure to be hit with book clubs. Besides Vera's and Claire's choices and the mystery of the boy, readers will want to talk about motherhood, social justice, family secrets, trust, and friendship as well as the future of the major characters.

Although the connection between past and present in the novel is not all that difficult to figure out, Sarah Jio is a good storyteller, and Blackberry Winter is great way to spend an afternoon.

Blackberry Winter is the She Reads book club selection for October. To see what other club members thought of the book, to enter a great giveaway, and to join the conversation, visit the She Reads website.

Buy Blackberry Winter at an Indie, Powell's, Book Depository, or a bookstore near you. These links lead to affiliate programs.
Published by Penguin USA / Plume 2012
ISBN-13: 9780452298385
Rating: B
Source: review (see review policy)
t © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)


(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea 10/1/12, 7:00 AM  

Yours is the first review I've read on this one. I actually think it sounds like one I might like --thanks for sharing.

Kaye 10/1/12, 8:06 AM  

This does sound like a good one. Your review is wonderful. Glad you enjoyed the story.

Daryl 10/1/12, 8:11 AM  

sounds more promising than the last two i started and gave up on ...

Julie P. 10/1/12, 8:15 AM  

I just skimmed this because I still have to write my review later this morning. I enjoyed this one a lot -- maybe more than her other books; and I agree that it's a great book club pick!

Blogger10 10/1/12, 8:51 AM  

Wow, this sounds right up my alley. Thanks for sharing your review!

bermudaonion 10/1/12, 9:23 AM  

I haven't tried Jio yet but I do love when stories from the past and the present are woven together. This sounds like a winner!

Beth Hoffman 10/1/12, 9:36 AM  

I'm reading this right now (almost at the end) and truly enjoying it!

Kim 10/1/12, 9:47 AM  

Lovely review-I am saving my copy for the read-a-thon in a couple of weeks as I think it will be a perfect book for an afternoon!

Zibilee 10/1/12, 11:08 AM  

I love books about the Depression, so I need to see if I can get to this one soon. Someone else mentioned that this one might be perfect for the readathon, which I agree with. Very nice review today!

Shan 10/1/12, 12:22 PM  

Sounds great, I've heard such good things about her novels, but haven't picked any up yet. I think I may start with this one!

Sheila (Bookjourney) 10/1/12, 1:50 PM  

Love the title - it made me want to know more. Like you - the womens lit and prince charming combo is not something I normally reach for. This one sounds like it may have a bit more to it though.

Natalie of Book Line and Sinker 10/1/12, 5:46 PM  

I read this one in one sitting on Sunday and really enjoyed it. I'm slated to review it this week and concur with your thoughts. I did figure out the connection pretty early on but let the story carry me along. Jio has a talent for weaving story lines from the past and present.

Literate Housewife 10/1/12, 7:46 PM  

I agree about women's fiction about 20 somethings looking for the one. I enjoy romance certainly, but I need more and Sarah Jio delivered.

Anonymous,  10/1/12, 11:03 PM  

I had a good time with her previous book, but there was switching back and forth in time in that one, too. I kinda wanted something different for her next book.

(Diane) bookchickdi 10/2/12, 6:20 AM  

I've never read any of Sarah's books, but this one sounds intriguing. I enjoyed your review.

Charlie 10/2/12, 6:41 AM  

I know what you mean about the stereotypical goal, and I say that as a 20-something. It's just often not so. Interesting how the book suggests the connection between social issues then and now. We haven't come as far as we think.

nomadreader 10/2/12, 1:39 PM  

I struggle with contemporary women's fiction too, but I more have issues with the female characters of a variety of ages seem to have no sense of self outside of their romantic relationships and children. Jio is an author I've been meaning to read since her first novel, and I think I'll start with that one, but I'm intrigued by this one too.

Marg 10/2/12, 5:05 PM  

I am going to read this one soon. I have read one of her books but didn't quite feel the love the way that most bloggers have!

Unknown 10/3/12, 11:13 AM  

There's a lot in this book that intrigues me: the mystery of he child's disappearance, the different time periods and Vera and Claire's lives. I'd especially interested in discovering how Vera serves as an inspiration of sorts for Claire.

It sounds like Sarah Jio sounds is a terrific storyteller.
I enjoyed your review.
Thank you!

StoriesAndSweetPotatoes 10/5/12, 7:56 PM  

I definitely agree with your first statement. I just received this book today and I'm excited to see what I think.

Les 10/8/12, 1:07 PM  

I have the same issues as you about the stereotypical twenty-something woman searching for Prince Charming. I'm glad to see that Jio's latest novel has more depth than some contemporary women's fiction of late.

I haven't read anything by this author, but this sounds intriguing. I love Seattle and hope the setting plays a significant role in this novel.

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