Friday, September 7, 2012

Blackberry Winter by Sarah Jio (Release date: Sept 25, 2012)

As a child, I learned the phrase Blackberry Winter when we had a sudden, surprising cold snap that left our springtime world blanketed in snow.  As a kid, it was magical, and the image of the azaleas covered with snow still remains in memory. Not so long ago, I heard Hilary Kole sing a beautiful rendition of Blackberry Winter. It has haunted me, and apparently haunted author Sarah Jio as well.  In an author's note, she tells how hearing the song on the radio sparked her to write this story. That alone is enough to endear me to the book, however, the story Jio wrote is worth liking on its own.

Set in Seattle, one of my favorite towns, Blackberry Winter combines two tales from two times, both when there were late snows on the first of May.  In the height of the depression, a young, single mother, headed to work as a chambermaid. Circumstances forced her to leave her precious son home alone, tucked safely in bed in their small apartment. In the morning,snow blanketed the town.  Her son had vanished. Only his teddy bear abandoned in the snow, remained behind.

In the 2010 story, after the town is once covered by a May 1 snow, a newspaper writer is assigned to write a feature about the blackberry winter of 1933. The story of the missing boy captures her. As she digs to learn what happened to little Daniel and his mother, she also faces  the ghosts haunting in her own life as well follow as a possible connection to the past.

I read this book pretty quickly. It took me a little longer to track down the lyrics to the song that captured both Ms Jio and me (which are written below, as well as a link to a video.) There were some weaker moments in the book, but mostly in the wrapping things up angle, so I can forgive some of the coincidences, especially if they involve a good coffee shop (don't want to say more for fear of spoilers.)

One of the things I especially enjoyed about this book was a glimpse into the world of the Depression in Seattle.  I'd recently read several other Seattle based novels (one written in 2000, but set in 2018; another set in an alternate reality present) so I feel like I've been to the town in the past, present, another present, and the future.  Maybe it's time for a real visit?

Lyrics to Blackberry Winter Video here.

Blackberry Winter comes without a warning
Just when you think that Spring's around to stay
So you wake up on a cold rainy morning
And wonder what on Earth became of May.

Blackberry Winter only lasts a few days
Just long enough to get you feeling sad
When you think of all the love that you have wasted
On someone that you never really had.

I'll never get over losing you
But I had to learn that life goes on
And the memories grow dim
Like a half forgotten son
'Til the Blackberry Winter
Reminds me that you're gone.

I get so lonely, most of all in springtime
I wish I could enjoy the first of May
But I seem to know that Blackberry Winter
Is not so far away.

Thanks to the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program for sending this lovely glimpse into two Blackberry Winters my way.

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