Our top picks for Winter Warm Reads

June 2, 2011

It Takes a Village

By Christine Stinson Published By Pan Macmillan RRP $32.99

Growing up in conservative, post war Australia isn’t easy. For eight-year-old Sophie, who has just been told that she’s a bastard, it seems that she lives in a world of secrets, unanswered questions and whispers. Who is her father and why did her mother never tell anyone who he was?

With only her reclusive grandfather to raise her, and more than one neighbour expecting her to go off the rails like her mother – after all, apples rarely fall far from the tree – Sophie struggles to find her place in the world. In a time when experiences are shared around the kitchen table, over the back fence or up at the corner shop, Sophie learns that life is rarely simple, love is always complicated and sometimes it takes more than blood ties to make a family.

Christine Stinson is a former language teacher who has been making up stories for as long as she can remember. Her first novel, Getting Even with Fran, was published by Pan Macmillan in 2010. She is currently working on her third novel, Epiphany.

The Lighthouse Keepers Wife

By Karen Viggers Published By Allen and Unwin RRP $29.99

An elderly woman at the end of her life. A young man unable to restart his. Both affected by isolation. Both affected by a history of lost love, guilty secrets and things left unsaid.

The Lightkeeper’s Wife is a novel that explores the effects of isolation on people’s lives, relationships and psyche. It begins with Mary, elderly and in poor health, wanting to live out her last days on Bruny Island so that she can revisit the places and memories of the life she lived with her husband, Jack, the lighthouse keeper. They raised their three children on the windswept island, and over time the wind and isolation wore away at the fabric of their marriage until terrible circumstances forced them to move back to the mainland.

Mary has carried a long-buried secret with her all the years since, and now it threatens to break free. Against the will of her three grown children she moves to the island, hoping to ensure the secret is never revealed. As her health steadily declines, only her youngest son Tom can understand her primal connection to the wild of the island, a place of solitude, healing and redemption. He has suffered the effects of isolation, too, having “overwintered” at an Antarctic base, returning with a deep emptiness as he finds his marriage over and ability to fit back into society difficult. As Mary’s time winds down, both she and Tom find they must face their pasts.

Friendship Bread

By Darien Gee Published By Allen and Unwin RRP $27.99

One afternoon, Julia Evarts and her five-year-old daughter, Gracie, arrive home to find an unexpected gift on the front porch: a homemade loaf of Amish Friendship Bread and a simple note: I hope you enjoy it. Also included are a bag of starter, instructions on how to make the bread herself, and a request to share it with others.

Still reeling from a personal tragedy that left her estranged from the sister who was once her best friend, Julia remains at a loss as to how to move on with her life. She’d just as soon toss the anonymous gift, but to make Gracie happy, she agrees to bake the bread. When Julia meets two newcomers to the small town of Avalon, she sparks a connection by offering them her extra bread starter. Widow Madeline Davis is struggling to keep her tea salon afloat while Hannah Wang de Brisay, a famed concert cellist, is at a crossroads, her career and marriage having come to an abrupt end. In the warm kitchen of Madeline’s tea salon, the three women forge a friendship that will change their lives forever.

In no time, everyone in Avalon is baking Amish Friendship Bread. But even as the town unites for a benevolent cause and Julia becomes ever closer to her new friends, she realises the profound necessity of confronting the painful past she shares with her sister. Friendship Bread is a celebration of life, loss, friendship and the power of belonging.

A Turn in the Road

Debbie Macomber Published by MIRA RRP $36.99

In the middle of the year, in the middle of her life, Bethanne Hamlin takes a road trip with her daughter, Annie, and her former mother-in-law, Ruth. They’re driving to Florida for Ruth’s 50th high-school reunion. A longtime widow, Ruth would like to reconnect with Royce, the love of her teenage life. She’s heard he’s alone, too…and, well, she’s curious. Maybe even hopeful.

Bethanne herself needs time to reï ¬ ‚ ect, to ponder a decision she has to make. Her ex-husband, Grant—her children’s father—wants to reconcile now that his second marriage has failed. Bethanne’s considering it….Meanwhile, Annie’s out to prove to her onetime boyfriend that she can live a brilliant life without him!

So there they are, three women driving across America. They have their maps and their directions—but even the best-planned journey can take you to a turn in the road. Or lead you to an unexpected encounter—like the day Bethanne meets a man named Max who really is a hero on a Harley. That’s when Bethanne’s decision becomes a lot harder. Because Grant wants her back, but now there’s Max…. From Seattle’s Blossom Street to the other end of the country, this is a trip that could change three women’s lives.

Read something good lately? Tell us and we will review for our Winter warm reads coming up!

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