The story of Winter Garden is something that builds up bit by bit. It is a story within a story and is pretty slow at first. It’s about two sisters, Meredith and Nina, and their mom, Anya who has been very cold to them all her life, and they couldn’t understand the reason for the same. When their father is on the deathbed, he takes a promise from the daughters that they will listen to Anya’s fairy tale in detail and try to know more about their mom.
death, Nina cajoles Anya to tell them the story and slowly but surely they
uncover that their mom is actually Vera and has a past that they know nothing
about. Vera’s family and her kids had witnessed pretty hostile situation during
the Second World War. They come to know how Vera dealt with the war situation
and lost her sister, mother, and son under extreme circumstances. I got very
emotional at one point when the story turns very gloomy when Vera details out
how they went through life without food and how she even fed her own blood from
her finger to her son, whom she couldn’t save from the clutches of death. That’s
the reason why later in life she was very interested in cooking and always used
to cook much more than what was required. She had seen very bad days in life.
beautifully illustrates why it is important to know your mother’s past to be
able to understand your own bearings in this world. Indeed, I felt that Vera
was a very strong woman who did her level best to tide over the disturbing war
conditions but sadly the impact of that experience on her life was so profound
that she could not get involved and participate in her daughter’s childhood. The
mother daughter relationship though is presented in a warm manner and one does
feel that Vera should have disclosed the secret much before to her daughters.
But it all comes together towards the end.
part of the book is actually a sad account of the extreme living conditions
that Vera had to face during the war. Later in the story she does come out of
her shell and starts interacting with her daughters in a friendly and open
manner. I would say it was a beautiful read towards the end. In real life, some
moms are very communicative with their children while others just go through
the chores without much thought. But a healthy mom-daughter relationship is
required to be successful in life in general. This book drives home this point
Educated is a memoir by Tara
Westover which has quickly climbed the success ladder due to its neat prose and
simple writing. It is actually the story of Tara from her childhood days to the
present. There is a flow in the book as when you will pick it up you would want
to go back to complete it as soon as possible. The setting is of Buck’s peak,
south western Idaho in America where Tara’s family lived. They were actually Mormon
survivalists who did not believe in sending their kids to school. Tara’s father
suffered from bipolar disorder and the family had to witness his ideological
mania over and over again. Her mother was a midwife and herbalist whose
business prospered later in the day and she gained much reputation with her
herbs and tinctures.
Tara was the youngest of the seven
children who had to study on their own as there was no emphasis on the studies.
Rather, children were made to work in Gene’s junkyard scrapping metal and
cleaning other stuff. Whenever anyone got hurt they were not allowed any
medical care as the father thought that it was against the wishes of the lord.
So when Tara has tonsillitis, she is made to stand in the sun with her mouth
open so that it gets healed itself. When Gene gets burned, even then they do
not take him to the hospital though the burns were severe. They make do with
the balms that Faye prepares for Gene.
When Tara joins a singing group,
the clothes they wear are termed whorish by the father. The negative influence
of younger brother Schwan on Tara is evident throughout the book. He would get
mad with her if she did not do as expected.
Tara is interested in studies and
tries to clear the ACT so that she can join college. She just didn’t want to do
the junkyard work anymore. While at BYU, she gets exposed to the outside world
for the first time and her professor sees the spark in her and sends her on a
scholarship to Cambridge. From Cambridge, she further goes on to Harvard for
her doctorate. She does have a few boyfriends, but she is unable to confide in
them about her family.
Educated just shows how someone
who was not even homeschooled properly can go on to achieve the degrees that
most people would die for. To be frank, real education is not really about the
degrees but is a freedom of choice and facing reality with all your guts. It
means living with passion and doing what you love most so that you achieve the
real purpose in your life.