Plume|September 25, 2012|Trade Paperback|ISBN: 978-0-452-29838-5
In 2011, Sarah Jio burst onto the fiction scene with two sensational novels – The Violets of March and The Bungalow. With Blackberry Winter – taking its title from a late-season, cold-weather phenomenon – Jio continues her rich exploration of the ways personal connections can transcend the boundaries of time.
Seattle, 1933. Single mother Vera Ray kisses her three-year-old son, Daniel, goodnight and departs to work the night-shift at a local hotel. She emerges to discover that a May-Day snow has blanketed the city, and that her son has vanished. Outside, she finds his beloved teddy bear lying face-down on an icy street, the snow covering up any trace of his tracks, or the perpetrator’s.
Seattle, 2010. Seattle Herald reporter Claire Aldridge, assigned to cover the May 1 “blackberry winter” storm and its twin, learns of the unsolved abduction and vows to unearth the truth. In the process, she finds that she and Vera may be linked in unexpected ways…
Blackberry Winter is a riveting page-turner that you won’t be able to put down until you’ve turned the last age and dabbed your eyes for the last time.
The story is told in alternating chapters between Vera Ray from 1933 and Claire Aldridge from 2010.
May 1, 1933 the day dawns with a snow blizzard that is threatening to shut down the city of Seattle. Vera Ray and her 3-year-old son, Daniel, live alone above a bar. Vera works as a maid at a fancy hotel but she works nights and cannot take Daniel with her forcing her to leave him home alone, tucked into his bed. Of course, this breaks Vera’s heart but she has no choice as she’s already three weeks behind in the rent and her landlord, Mr. Garrison is a miserable sod.
May 2, 2010 Claire Aldridge receives a frantic phone call early in the morning from her boss, Frank. Claire is a journalist for the Seattle Herald and Frank wants Claire to write a story about the blizzard that is now battering Seattle. Claire isn’t terribly excited at first as she wonders how she is going to write a headline story about snowmen and snowballs. Then Frank alerts Claire to the fact that a snow blizzard exactly like this one took place on the same day 80 years ago. He wants a 6,000 word story and wants it by Friday. Claire has her work cut out for her.
Vera tucks Daniel into his bed with his favourite teddy bear, kisses him good-night and tells him she’ll see him in the morning. When she returns home, 3-year-old, Daniel is nowhere to be found. He is gone! The only thing found is Daniel’s precious teddy bear lying in the snow behind the apartment building. The police are called but fluff the whole thing off saying, Daniel is a runaway and that he’ll come home when he gets hungry.
Claire not only has a great deal of research to do now for her story but she is also coping with a heartbreak of her own which we don’t find out about until a little ways into the story which keeps you reading because you want to know so bad.
l loved both Claire and Vera, but as a mother myself, my heart totally went out to Vera in this story. The lack of police help, I believe, was due to the fact that Vera was a poor, single Mom. Vera will do anything to find Daniel and soon finds herself in some predicaments that she’d never, ever have gotten involved in had this not happened to her.
Claire meets some new friends during her research who go a long way in helping her solve this crime that took place some 80 years prior.
Blackberry Winter is a heartwarming story but with two sad story lines that Sarah Jio handled with finesse and the uncanny ability to make the reader feel as though they were part of the story. I’ll definitely be touting the merits of this novel to all who will listen. Well done!!