Title: WHEN WINTER COMES
Author: V.A. SHANNON
Genre: HISTORICAL FICTION
Length: 304 PAGES
Publisher: KENSINGTON BOOKS
Received From: NETGALLEY
Release Date: OCTOBER 30, 2018
Price: $15.95 USD / $17.95 CDN
Rating: 4 OUT OF 5 STARS ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Mrs. Jacob Klein has a husband, children, and a warm and comfortable home in California. No one—not even her family—knows how she came to be out West thirteen years ago. Jacob, a kind and patient man, has promised not to ask. But if she were to tell her story, she would recount a tale of tragedy, mishaps, and unthinkable choices—yet also sacrifice, courage, and a powerful, unexpected love . . .
1846: On the outskirts of Cincinnati, wagons gather by the hundreds, readying to head west to California. Among the throng is a fifteen-year-old girl eager to escape her abusive family. With just a few stolen dollars to her name, she enlists as helpmate to a married couple with a young daughter. Their group stays optimistic in the face of the journey’s hazards and delays. Then comes a decision that she is powerless to prevent: Instead of following the wagon train’s established route, the Donner Party will take a shortcut over the Sierras, aiming to clear the mountains before the first snows descend.
In the years since that infamous winter, other survivors have sold their accounts for notoriety and money, lurid tales often filled with half-truths or blatant, gory lies. Now, Mrs. Klein must decide whether to keep those bitter memories secret, or risk destroying the life she has endured so much to build . . .
“Hunger is an evil thing, and brings with it the worst of human nature; it is an agony of the flesh, but it is an agony of the spirit as well.”
Most people who have even a passing interest in Pioneer times have heard one or more versions of the story of the Donner party’s trek from Ohio to California which ended in murder and cannibalism. WHEN WINTER COMES is a new fictional version of this true tale.
Told thirteen years after the survivors arrival in California, this tale is written in story form, but as if it were being written in a journal rather than spoken out loud.
Mrs. Jacob Klein was but a young teenager when she set out in 1846 with nothing more than the clothes on her back to join a wagon train heading from her birthplace in Cincinnati to the wonder of a new life in California.
Her husband Jacob has no idea what befell her on her journey and does not try to force her to relive those memories. However, his gift of a beautiful, blank journal prompts her to fill it with the recollections of the very worst time of her life.
“My eyes blur with weariness, and my hand cramps. But my mind will not be still. It pours out memory like a never-ending stream of water that cannot be contained.”
Author V.A. SHANNON writes about the camraderie the members of the wagon train experienced at the start of their journey. As time and hardship start to wear on the pioneers, that early easy camraderie starts to erode.
What happens next is NOT the same as what has been reported and believed for the last 150 years.
Author V.A. Shannon seamlessly leads the reader between the narrator’s journal entries and her present reality.
Not only is this a historic tale of survival, it is also a coming of age story. In fact, it is also a study of humanity and of what people are willing to do, and what lines they will cross, in order to survive.
How far would you go to ensure your survival?
What would you be willing to do to ensure the survival of your spouse? What about for the survival of your children?
Would you allow social conventions and the fear of what others would think of you to dictate your actions? Would you stand your ground when making decisions? Would you defer to others? Would you become a leader or a follower?
Now, imagine that the year is 1846. Modern technology does not exist. There are no official roads. Would you resort to eating human flesh if the choice was between that and death?
With those questions in mind, you now need to pick up a copy of WHEN WINTER COMES. When you finish reading it, come back to my blog amiesbookreviews dot WordPress dot com and let me know what you thought and if after reading it, you have altered your answers to the questions above.
I love it when a book makes me think and when it is written well enough that not only do I feel sympathy towards the characters, but empathy as well. It is for this reason, as well as the simple fact that I enjoyed the story, that I rate WHEN WINTER COMES as 4 out of 5 Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a free copy of this book.
“I have come to think that there are no shortcuts in life. It is too easy to choose to do the selfish thing, and to head off in pursuit of your own happiness and your own ambition, and lose sight of what really matters in this world.”
“…to take a risk with the happiness of those who love you and depend upon you cannot be heroic.”
“To my mind, the man who fears the path of love as being one of dull duty, but sets along it nevertheless, is the real hero at the end.”
“We are practical folks, we Pioneers, and rightly proud of ourselves…”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
V.A. Shannon trained originally as an artist, in the United States, and then requalified as a lawyer in the UK, but her first love has always been writing.
In 2011, she was lucky enough to be accepted on the prestigious Faber Academy novel writing course where she embarked on the first draft of the novel that was ultimately to become When Winter Comes.
She subsequently left the security of full time paid employment to concentrate on her writing, supporting herself by taking on a variety of temporary and part time roles, including working in the cloakroom at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, selling Titanic memorabilia, and cleaning houses!
She has two beautiful daughters and a gorgeous granddaughter, and lives in Welwyn Garden City, just north of London.
To learn more about this author, visit the following links: