Monday, January 13, 2014

Mind of Winter by Laura Kasischke

Mind of Winter
Author Laura Kasischke
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On a snowy Christmas morning, Holly Judge awakens, the fragments of a nightmare-something she must write down-floating on the edge of her consciousness. Something followed them from Russia.On another Christmas morning thirteen years ago, she and her husband Eric were in Siberia to meet the sweet, dark-haired Rapunzel they desperately wanted. How they laughed at the nurses of Pokrovka Orphanage #2 with their garlic and their superstitions, and ignored their gentle 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, has not been right in the years since they brought their daughter-now a dangerously beautiful, petulant, sometimes erratic teenager-home. There is something evil inside this house. Inside themselves. How else to explain the accidents, the seemingly random and banal misfortunes. Trixie, the cat. The growth on Eric's hand. Sally the hen, their favorite, how the other chickens turned on her. The housekeeper, that ice, a bad fall. The CDs scratched, every one. But Holly must not think of these things. She and Tatiana are all alone. Eric is stuck on the roads and none of their guests 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 and frightening. Until, in every mother's worst nightmare, Holly finds she no longer recognizes her daughter.
Review: Being a fan of The Raising, I had to read another book by Laura Kasischke. Mind of Winter takes place on Christmas Day. A perfect storm of emotions, weather, regret, grief, guilt and failures accumulates with the mounting snow from the incoming storm. What follows from Russia is a more tangible misfortune than supernatural. For those who are hoping for a paranormal twist, this book will not satisfy in the traditional sense. I would categorize Mind of Winter as a contemporary tragedy, but with nothing otherworldly bordering on the paranormal. It's more of a commentary on the human mind's ability to ignore, justify or rationalize despite visual or sensory input. 

Isolated with her teen daughter, Holly Judge prepares for a traditional family Christmas. All the stress of preparing a meal and entertaining is heightened when everyone wakes up late on Christmas morning. There is little cheer or comedic relief in this story. The heaviness of fatalism is overwhelming and the sinking feeling of a terrible outcome multiples with each page. Although, this is the goal, it can be a depressing read. I personally have a hard time with books that continue with little relief, but the dark, sinking gloom is achieved.  

Thematically, the book addresses foreign adoption, preventive surgery and genetic disposition, fatalism, mental illness, ageism, grief and guilt. The cast of characters range from a same-sex marriage couple, to Mr.Unavailable, a robot cell phone solicitor, stereotypical Siberians, to the more traditional grandparents and husband's boss. 

The ending comes a bit quick given the build up and does cut off when reality is revealed. I would have liked to see more resolution beyond the climax. I had questions regarding Holly's husband and parents. However, this can be debated and is a technique used to create discussion. For me, it felt a bit unfinished.  When the cracks fracture, the story ends. 
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