Meredith and Nina Whitson are sisters who have grown up with a cold, disapproving mother. Each of them coped in their own way. Meredith did so by having a family, running the family's apple orchard, and becoming a super achiever. Nina coped by becoming a world famous photojournalist taking pictures in grief stricken areas of the world, constantly travelling and running away.
When their beloved father falls ill he extracts a promise from Nina that she will get her mother to tell the Russian fairy tale story that they had loved as children. But he wants Nina to get her mother to tell it through to the ending which the girls have never heard. When he dies the sisters and their mother are pulled in opposite directions, each dealing with the grief in their own way. Meredith throws herself into her work alienating her husband, Nina runs away to Africa and Anya, their mother, sits in her garden even in the winter in her nightgown and looks to be becoming more and more forgetful.
Nina finally turns toward home and starts her mother telling her and the reluctant Meredith the Russian fairy tale. A tale about a young girl and her fairy tale prince and their falling in love in Leningrad. Only it is really their mother's tale about Leningrad and the infamous siege of Leningrad.
This is such a wonderful tale. I especially enjoyed the historical fiction portion about the siege of Leningrad. The ending was such a great surprise and so up-lifting and just plain feel good. Great book!!
First Line: "On the banks of the mighty Columbia River, in this icy season when every breath became visible, the orchard called Belye Nochi was quiet."