Book Review: Winter Garden

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.

After his 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.

This book 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.

The latter 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 as well.

Book review: Educated by Tara Westover

Time for a book review on gutfeel. Read on…

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.