Friday, 7 December 2012

Blackberry Winter by Sarah Jio

Seattle, 1933. Vera Ray kisses her three-year-old son, Daniel, good night and reluctantly leaves for work. She hates the night shift, but it’s the only way she can earn enough to keep destitution at bay. In the morning – even though it’s the second of May – a heavy snow is falling. Vera rushes to wake Daniel, but his bed is empty. His teddy bear lies outside in the snow.
Seattle, present day. On the second of May, Seattle Herald reporter Claire Aldridge awakens to another late-season snowstorm. Assigned to cover this “blackberry winter” and its predecessor decades earlier, Claire learns of Daniel’s unsolved abduction and vows to unearth the truth – only to discover that she and Vera are linked in unexpected ways. (from back of book)

There are no words to describe how much I love Sarah Jio. This is her third book that has been published, there are 2-3 more books awaiting publication or being written (THANK GOD) and I will buy every single one of the books she writes until she stops writing. Jio has a way with words and stories that no author I have ever read has had. And this story did not disappoint.
I love the historical aspect in this story because you get a sense of what the world was like for people in 1933. The gap between the rich and the working poor is severely obvious and people were struggling to have enough food to eat and pay their rent. I think it makes people realize just how lucky we have it today and the fact that we can’t buy the next iphone or the biggest television is really not a big deal.
I enjoyed getting to know both Vera and Claire. Both women are dealing with loss, and both are in very different situations. Vera works very hard to support herself and Daniel and no matter what, she never has enough money to cover all of the things she NEEDS. She is a strong woman and I commend her perseverance and her will to survive. She becomes a very different person when she loses Daniel and her life takes a turn for the worst. Claire is a modern day woman who has also lost a child, but in a different way. She and her husband are becoming more and more distant from each other and this story about the Blackberry Winter is the first story in a long time that has brought light to her eyes and she finds herself really engrossed in it. She is persistent, even when it seems as though she is getting nowhere with the story, and she ends up getting more than she bargained for.
The way Jio connects her characters to each other is absolutely brilliant. She brought back some characters from her first book, The Violets of March, and I was very happy to see them again and to discover what happened to them after the story. I am absolutely baffled at her work and I truly think each of her books is a work of art. I have always wanted to be a writer (I believe I am more of a reader and not a storyteller) and if I were to be like any writer out there today, I would want to be like Sarah Jio. I would want people to count down the days until my next book is released. I would want my readers to read my books over and over again. I would want my readers to love my work so much that they feel the need to buy copies for all of their friends (don’t get too excited guys. This is not something I can afford lol.) IF YOU HAVE NOT READ SARAH JIO, YOU MUST!!!!! I absolutely give this book a 5/5 and if I were the type to go above and beyond, I would actually give her a 7/5.

One of my favourite things about Sarah Jio (aside from her writing) is she is absolutely a normal person. It is very obvious that she cares about her readers and if you are part of a book club, if you send her a message, she will call your book club and say hi! I have been lucky enough to interview Sarah via email for the second time this year!!!! I hope you enjoy it! Thank you again, Sarah!!!!
Q: You come up with the most incredible story lines! What is your inspiration and once you have an idea, how do you start developing it
A: Thank you! The idea process is my favorite part, actually. I have what I like to call a "chronic disease" and that is that I get so many novel ideas! They come to me from every angle of my life (songs on the radio, things my kids say, snippets of conversations I overhear at the grocery store), and I love how they take root. My most recent novel, BLACKBERRY WINTER, was inspired by a song I heard on radio called Blackberry Winter, sung by the talented Hilary Kole. [note: You can find this on Youtube if you want to link to the song!] For me, if if I have a title I love and a vague idea of the setting and feel of the story, I can usually start to hear the characters whispering to me soon after. That’s such a fun part for me!

Q: I loved that you brought in some characters we were introduced to in The Violets of March. Is that something you knew you were going to do or did it just happen during the writing process?
A: Glad that you noticed! I love being able to drop in characters from past novels into my current novels because it's fun for me to see them again and I think readers enjoy seeing where characters end up. After all, they're sort of like old friends, and there's something sad about "The End" when you know you won't get to see them again. Also, as a reader, I love it when authors do this. Maeve Binchy was a genius at this technique. 

Q: The way that Claire feels after losing a child is very realistic and what I would imagine would be very close to how it feels to lose a child. What did you do in order to gain this real perspective?
A: While I have never personally gone through the agony of losing a child, I have let my mind wander to that frightening place on many occasions, especially while writing Blackberry Winter. I forced myself to consider how I would feel if something happened to me or my unborn baby during pregnancy, and I was able to channel my character, Claire, a bit in the process. 

Also, tragically, while I was writing this novel, one of my dearest friends told me the horrible news that her baby son was dying of brain cancer. I wrote a bit about how that affected me and the writing of this book in a special note at the end of the novel.

Q: What was your favourite piece to write in Blackberry Winter?
A: I suppose I loved writing about the whirlwind romance between Vera and Charles. He (and Daniel) was the one bright spot of her very difficult life, and I loved seeing her so happy and loved. Her happiness practically leapt off the page as I was writing those pages. She loved him so much.

Q: Were there any scenes that you wrote for BW that did not make the final cut?
A: There were a few, but this novel was, thankfully, at a very complete state when my editor read it. She made some great suggestions for improving some chapters, which I was so grateful for, but in the end, it was nice that there wasn't any significant revision work that needed to be done. Not every novel is this streamlined, and looking back, it still amazes me how clearly this story came together for me. It truly was a pleasure to write. 

Q: Of the three books that have been published to date, The Violets of March, The Bungalow, and Blackberry Winter, which is your favourite and why?
A: I suppose The Violets of March will always have a special place in my heart because it was my first novel, and The Bungalow because I dedicated it to my husband (and because the love story in that novel still haunts me to this day!), but, I feel that Blackberry Winter has grabbed my heart the most, especially because it deals with motherhood (have I mentioned that I'm the mom of three little boys ages 5, 3 and 1?). 

My fourth novel, The Last Camellia, will be out on May 28, 2013, and I can't wait for you to read it! It's my darkest and most mysterious novel yet!

I hope you have enjoyed this special post as much as I have! I am so grateful to Sarah for taking the time to answer my questions. It is such a joy for a reader to be able to connect with a favourite author! If you are interested in reading Sarah Jio, be sure to check out my archives and you will find my reviews of her 2 other books, The Violets of March and The Bungalow, as well as my first interview with Sarah!
Happy Reading!
Next review: The Monster (Troubletwisters Book 2) by Garth Nix

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