Mind of Winter
Page Count: 276
Release Date: March 25th 2014
Publisher: Harper (Harper Collins)
Source: Complimentary copy provided by publisher via tour publicist in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you, Harper Collins and TLC!)
Something had followed them from Russia.
On a snowy Christmas morning, Holly Judge awakens, the fragments of a nightmare—something so important that she must write it down—floating on the edge of her consciousness.
Something had followed them from Russia!
It was thirteen years ago that she and her husband, Eric, went to Siberia to adopt the sweet, dark-haired child they had wanted so desperately. How they laughed at the nurses of Pokrovka Orphanage #2 with their garlic and superstitions, and ignored their insistent warnings. After all, their fairy princess Tatiana—Baby Tatty—was perfect.
As the snow falls, enveloping the world in its white silence, Holly senses that something is not right, and has never been right in the years since they brought their daughter home. Now Tatty is a dangerously beautiful, petulant, and often erratic teenager, and Holly feels there is something evil lurking within their house.
She and Tatiana are alone. Eric is stuck on the roads, and none of the other guests for Christmas dinner will be able to make it through the snow. With each passing hour, the blizzard rages and Tatiana's mood darkens, her behavior becoming increasingly disturbing... until, in every mother's worst nightmare, Holly finds she no longer recognizes her daughter.
They never speculated whether Tatiana might have inherited her love of horses from some Mongol ancestor or whether her lovely singing voice had been passed down from a gypsy grandmother. Neither of them speculated as to whether there might be manic depression tucked away in those genes, as there was in Holly's, or heart disease, cancer, anything. Their daughter had come to them without legacy. She was so beautiful and perfect she did not need one.On Christmas morning, Holly Judge comes to with a startling message from a foggy dream she's just awaken from: something had followed them home from Russia.
Something had followed them home from Russia! These words, in the context of her daughter, Tatiana's adoption from Pokrovka Orphanage #2 in Siberia 13 years ago, should send chills up your spine. As Holly deals with the domestic mishaps of stressful Christmas dinner preparations, readers tap into the reflective, wistful dusty corners of Holly's mind. Her thoughts drift from her troubled childhood, to her hardest battles, to Baby Tatty's excruciating but worthwhile adoption, to Tatiana's adolescence; these flashbacks are what make up the secure, nostalgic portion of the book.
In the present, however, Holly must face something far more frightening than her personal tragedies and memories: her daughter. The frustration of motherhood is really well captured through Holly's third person narrative. She's excessively sensitive—paranoid, easily startled, a bit overbearing—but her egocentric way of thought is forgiven solely because of how relatable she is, how easy to sympathize with.
Tatiana and Holly's relationship is slightly morbid, a bit eerie to begin with. There's something lurkingly alarming about Holly being trapped inside the house in a snowstorm with a daughter that isn't acting like herself anymore, and although their interactions only occur within a span of eight hours (or so), they take up the entire novel, which should be an indication of just how scrutinizingly—just how comprehensively—Holly's life story unravels.
No matter how much you reflect, the past will always catch up with you, Holly realizes when her reminiscences culminate with a jarring, unexpected revelation that tilts her perspective, sense, and reality a several degrees. The ending of the book—which I won't give away—will make your mind reel and have you rethinking the virtues of destiny, sanity, and delusion of perfection.
Laura Kasischke is a clear poet, with smooth and imaginative style that sets a perfectly chilling and increasingly distressing mood. I noticed a lot of readers on Goodreads complaining about the repetition of certain lines and the exaggerated alarm with which Holly perceives the world, but—hello?—that's the entire POINT of her writing style! Kasischke's merit isn't quite literary, but it's sensuous, it's poetic, and it needs to be read like a movie script would: dramatically, frenetically.
I know the cover is really creepy, and while I can definitely vouch for a disturbing quality to this novel, I also have to say it isn't all blood and guts and gore; I wouldn't call this a horror novel, exactly. It's more about horror of the mind; Mind of Winter is a shadowy psychological thriller that won't only have your heart leaping up in your chest, but will also make you consider the limitations of a solitary perspective, and what it means to truly understand a story.
Completely absorbing... it was hard for me to stop reading! // Mind-blowing turn of events // Structurally and stylistically bizarre, but that much more impressive // Nothing violent or explicit, but as a trigger warning, there is definitely some emotionally disturbing content // Poetic, repetitive flow to Kasischke's voice // Vivid, detailed style // Introspective // Presents accurate remarks about the joys and dangers of what's inside of us // One of those books that will make you double-take and think hard
No chapters or clear structure to the book, which I understand is intentional, but it made it hard to find stopping points while reading (not that I wanted to stop reading) // Creeped out the living sh!t out of me (which is actually pretty cool, now that I think about it)
"It isn't repression to acknowledge the horrors of this world and let them go. It's freedom."
Tranquilly dark, hauntingly portrayed, and ultimately, completely mind-bending, Laura Kasischke's latest novel is a hair-raising glimpse at not only a repressive household's mother-daughter relationship, but also into the scariest place possible: the human mind. While not explicit or particularly horrific, Mind of Winter has some disturbing content that keeps me from recommending it to the average Jane. However, if, like me, you can stomach that kind of psychological manipulation from the author, and if you're a fan of unreliable narrators, macabre portraits of repression and denial, and characters that come with no baggage or legacy, then this is your next must-read. Buy yourself a copy now