BLACKBERRY WINTER is Sarah Jio’s third novel, and I bought the audiobook for a long car trip. From the moment the book began, I was captivated by the mult- period drama of two very different women dealing with great losses.
The novel begins in depression era Seattle in 1933 as single mother Vera Ray tucks in her son for bedtime and prepares to work the overnight shift at a local hotel. She hates leaving him in the apartment alone at night, but it’s what she must do to support the two of them. The chill she feels from the unseasonably late snow storm foreshadows the devastation she is about to experience. When Vera returns from her shift that night, her worst fear is realized: Daniel is missing without a trace.
Alternating with the chapters set in the past, are those in present day Seattle. Coverage of another strange May snowstorm (a “Blackberry Winter”) is assigned to Seattle Herald reporter Claire Aldridge. As she digs in the archives to find an angle for the story, she unearths the tragedy of the missing boy, Daniel, and becomes consumed trying to find out what ever happened to him. Her research leads her to face unresolved pain in her own life and marriage, and her connection to the past is much more than she ever could have known.
I have been a long-time fan of Jio, and BLACKBERRY WINTER, did not disappoint. Jio seamlessly weaves the stories of the past and present together with compelling, likable characters, and a layered mystery. I’ve always enjoyed multi-period novels for the way they unite the past and the present, and keep the plot moving, and BLACKBERRY WINTER does this exceptionally well.
I have to confess that just as all of the mysteries in the book were wrapping up my iPod skipped and shut the audiobook down, and I was left with thirty minutes in my trip with no resolution to the book!! As soon as I got home, I emailed Amy Bromberg (who had encouraged me to read the novel), and she told me how everything turned out. I will get the book so I can actually read the ending, but I was relieved that someone had read it and could answer my queries. (I never could get the ending of the audiobook to load.)
It came as no surprise when Sarah Jio made the New York Times Bestseller list with the book last week, and I wish her all the best. She has a lifetime fan in me. If you love compelling period novels with elements of mystery and heart, I strongly recommend BLACKBERRY WINTER.