Thursday, September 1, 2011

Book Review: The Winters in Bloom by Lisa Tucker

The Winters in Bloom by Lisa Tucker

Publisher: Atria
Published Date: September 13, 2011
ISBN: 978-1416575405
Pages: 288
Genre: Contemporary Fiction; Women's Fiction
Rating: 4.0 out of 5

Publisher's Book Summary: Together for over a decade, Kyra and David Winter are happier than they ever thought they could be. They have a comfortable home, stable careers, and a young son, Michael, whom they adore. Yet because of their complicated histories, Kyra and David have always feared that this domestic bliss couldn’t last - that the life they created was destined to be disrupted. And on one perfectly ordinary summer day, it is: Michael disappears from his own backyard. The only question is whose past has finally caught up with them. David feels sure that Michael was taken by his troubled ex-wife, while Kyra believes the kidnapper must be someone from her estranged family, someone she betrayed years ago.

As the Winters embark on a journey of time and memory to find Michael, they will be forced to admit these suspicions, revealing secrets about themselves they’ve always kept hidden. But they will also have a chance to discover that it’s not too late to have the family they’ve dreamed of; that even if the world is full of risks, as long as they have hope, the future can bloom.

My Thoughts: Lisa Tucker has been on my list of authors to read for quite a while. When I saw The Winters in Bloom on Atria's list of Fall 2011 books I was excited and jumped at the chance to read this book. What an amazing and fascinating book this is! Lisa Tucker understands the issues people deal with everyday in their relationships with others and with themselves as well as the dynamics of family relationships. The pivotal event in this book is Michael's abduction with the focus of the story on how David and Kyra cope with it and the impact of their past on their current behavior and life. Other relationships are explored and affirm the need to communicate and share with those you love. This is not a happy book for much of the story but it is a compelling and riveting one filled with intriguingly flawed human beings, many of whom are trying, desperately, to do the right thing for those they love and learning some important lessons along the way.

Kyra and David are not easy-going, carefree, relaxed people although they try to put on a good front for acquaintances and strangers. Most days their free time is consumed by worries about their son, Michael's, health and well-being. David and Kyra have taken every possible minor and major precaution to keep Michael safe including treating him as if he has severe allergies although he rarely sneezes or coughs. Kyra and David also removed Michael from three different schools because of potential problems that could effect his development despite reassurances from his teachers. They are home-schooling Michael although they're not completely satisfied with this decision either. The people who know Kyra and David best think of them as neurotic, over-protective and even insane and consider poor Michael a little weird.. His parents' behavior has made Michael the most anxious, neurotic 5-year old you'll ever meet. He worries about germs, preservatives and dirt as well as his parents well-being. He wants them to be happy an relaxed.

The Winters in Bloom opens in the present with Michael's abduction. The book then takes us back 20 years or more to Kyra's childhood and her close relationship to her sister, Amy. The chapters of the book then alternate between the past and present providing a compelling look at how one influences the other. This was a very effective way of relaying events of the past that have made Kyra and David who they are today. It's fascinating to observe thirteen-year old Kyra develop into the anxious, secretive, shameful woman she is as Kyra Winters. Ms. Tucker also shares David's past but in an different way. David’s mother, Sandra, shares David’s life with us, becoming a vital secondary character in the book. I liked the way Ms. Tucker revealed David's past life because he's more secretive than Kyra and self-absorbed and controlling. I don't think David's portrayal of his past would have been reliable because he's too concerned with shaping other's opinions and making sure people see things the way he wants them to be seen. It's astonishing to learn how different David was and to discover how his past relationships, one in particular, changed him. David hasn't been able to face the irreparable pain and hurt of his past and, rather than deal with it, he stuffed it deep down inside himself, ignoring it.

The insight into David provided by his mother gives us a clear idea of the man David is capable of being if only he'd face the pain of his past. I found it difficult to identify with David because his behavior is so extreme and he's also closed-off and distant. After learning about the tragedy in David’s past through Sandra, I understood him much better and was able to sympathize with him. I still wanted to shake him vigorously telling him to look at what you're doing to your family and talk to your wife! Kyra is an extremely well-developed character who many readers will be able to identify with. She is seriously flawed and, by the time she meets David, has some major regrets under her belt. I didn't consider her as extreme as David because it felt like she was going along with what David wanted in regards to Michael out of her love for both of them and because she’s afraid to disappoint David. Kyra believes she's lost people she loves in the past because she thoughtlessly did what she wanted to without regard for the people she loved. Now she'd rather do whatever pleases David and keep things between them harmonious.

Kyra and David recognized, in each other, a shared need they're able to fill for each other, at least for a while. They seem to have an implicit agreement not to question each other about their pasts and not to expect each other to talk about them. It becomes clear, as the story progresses, they don’t know large chunks of each other's lives. When Michael is abducted, Kyra and David are lost to each other because the unshared aspects of their pasts come back to haunt them. They each blame someone from a past relationship they kept a secret. Their failure to share their painful, difficult experiences renders them incapable of understanding each other at this vital time. They're both in the dark and their subsequent confusion causes what little communication they have to completely break down. They can’t effectively support each other during this tragic time particularly because they fear telling each other the truth and revealing their shame and vulnerability.

The Winters in Bloom was difficult to stop reading once I started! Ms. Tucker has written a very compelling and absorbing story that many readers will be able to relate to, at least in part. The universal themes of communication, deception and forgiveness as well as love and loyalty predominate in this story about relationships and behavior. Our pasts are so much a part of who we are and who we become that to believe you can shut the door on your past and ignore it’s impact on you is simply not possible. Ms Tucker clearly understands this and shows us the detrimental effect of failing to communicate and share past experiences with those you love as well as trying to ignore the good and bad of previous relationships and behavior. Ms. Tucker uses a variety of different relationships to emphasize the importance of sharing, communicating and loving demonstrating that no relationship is free of the need to share, communicate and show our love. She assures us that healing is possible and portrays the benefits of allowing ourselves to be vulnerable and sincere. I highly recommend this absorbing and compelling novel. This may have been my first experience reading a novel by Lisa Tucker but it won’t be my last.

Lisa Tucker’s website.

Thank you to Atria Books for an ARC of The Winters in Bloom and the opportunity to review this book.


  1. Wow, that sounds like a fabulous book. Can you imagine living just waiting for the shoe to drop. It sounds like the book is full of tension.

  2. You make this book sound amazing! It's gone on my wishlist.

  3. Sounds like a compelling read. Thank you for the wonderful review.

  4. Oh my! I think living with that much anxiety about a child would be paralyzing, and would just sap the energy right out of me. What I have found out about life seems to be that the more you try to control aspects of it, the more out of control it gets. At a certain point, you have to learn to let go and just live it, you know? This does sound like an interesting book for a lot of reasons, and I think I am going to have to search it out. Although I would not want to live my life this way, I am sure it would be fascinating to read about! Great review, Amy!

  5. This sounds great! Glad you really enjoyed it.

  6. Lovely review Amy. It does sound like there is alot here that different people can relate to. Your observations about how we can never deny the impact of our past experiences is so true :)

  7. Sounds like this book makes a case for being open and honest with your partner … keeping secrets can only lead to bad things. This sounds like an intersting book … although the part about them worrying about their child sounds very intense and upsetting.

  8. I must admit to only scanning your review to get a general impression, as I have this one for review myself! It seems as though I'm in for a treat! :)

  9. I have this book and your review really makes me want to read it! Sounds like the perfect mix of suspense and family drama.