Copyright © 2010 by Kristin Hannah.
Published in 2010 by St. Martin's Press.
All rights reser
Was this what forty looked like? Really? In the past year Meredith had gone from Miss to Ma'am. Just like that, with no transition. Even worse, her skin had begun to lose its elasticity. There were tiny pleats in places that used to be smooth. Her neck was fuller, there was no doubt about it. She hadn't gone gray yet; that was the one saving grace. Her chestnut-colored hair, cut in a no-nonsense shoulder-length bob, was still full and shiny. But her eyes gave her away. She looked tired. And not only at six in the morning.
She turned away from the mirror and stripped out of her old T-shirt and into a pair of black sweats, anklet socks, and a long-sleeved black shirt. Pulling her hair into a stumpy ponytail, she left the bathroom and walked into her darkened bedroom, where the soft strains of her husband's snoring made her almost want to crawl back into bed. In the old days, she would have done just that, would have snuggled up against him.
Leaving the room, she clicked the door shut behind her and headed down the hallway toward the stairs.
In the pale glow of a pair of long-outdated night-lights, she passed the closed doors of her children's bedrooms. Not that they were children anymore. Jillian was nineteen now, a sophomore at UCLA who dreamed of being a doctor, and Maddy—Meredith's baby—was eighteen and a freshman at Vanderbilt. Without them, this house—and Meredith's life—felt emptier and quieter than she'd expected. For nearly twenty years, she had devoted herself to being the kind of mother she hadn't had, and it had worked. She and her daughters had become the best of friends. Their absence left her feeling adrift , a little purposeless. She knew it was silly. It wasn't as if she didn't have plenty to do. She just missed the girls; that was all.
She kept moving. Lately that seemed to be the best way to handle things.
Downstairs, she stopped in the living room just long enough to plug in the Christmas tree lights. In the mudroom, the dogs leaped up at her, yapping and wagging their tails.
"Luke, Leia, no jumping," she scolded the huskies, scratching their ears as she led them to the back door. When she opened it, cold air rushed in. Snow had fallen again last night, and though it was still dark on this mid-December morning, she could make out the pale pearlescence of road and field. Her breath turned into vapory plumes.
By the time they were all outside and on their way, it was 6:10 and the sky was a deep purplish gray.
Right on time.
Meredith ran slowly at first, acclimating herself to the cold. As she did every weekday morning, she ran along the gravel road that led from her house, down past her parents' house, and out to the old single-lane road that ended about a mile up the hill. From there, she followed the loop out to the golf course and back. Four miles exactly. It was a routine she rarely missed; she had no choice, really. Everything about Meredith was big by nature. She was tall, with broad shoulders, curvy hips, and big feet. Even her features seemed just a little too much for her pale, oval face—she had a big Julia Roberts– type mouth, huge brown eyes, full eyebrows, and thick hair. Only constant exercise, a vigilant diet, good hair products, and an industrial-sized pair of tweezers could keep her looking good.
As she turned back onto her road, the rising sun illuminated the mountains, turned their snowcapped peaks lavender and pink.
On either side of her, thousands of bare, spindly apple trees showed through the snow like brown stitches on white fabric. This fertile cleft of land had belonged...
Author: Kristin Hannah
"It's a tearjerker, but the journey is as lovely--and haunting--as a snow filled winter's night." - People magazine
"Readers will find it hard not to laugh a little and cry a little more as mother and daughters reach out to each other just in the nick of time." - Publishers Weekly
"Winter Garden is Kristin Hannah's best written and most deeply affecting novel yet." - The Huffington Post
"This tearjerker weaves a convincing historical novel and contemporary family drama..." - Library Journal
"A...searing story with a breathtaking, beautiful ending." - The Seattle Times