I may or may not have stayed up all night reading this book…. yup, I did. This book totally engrossed me and had me sucked in from the very first page. Here’s the overview from Goodreads:
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.
(** Keep in mind, this is a book review, not a synopsis, so I try really hard to keep spoilers out of it. If I am going to spoil something, I will warn you. So feel free to read my reviews whether or not you’ve read the book yet! **)
One of the things that I loved about this book was the way Jio made me care for the characters. Sometimes I find myself reading books and realizing that I could completely care less about these people. So when I find myself honestly concerned about their lives and how it’ll all work out, I know that the author has done a good job. I also really liked how fast-paced the novel was. I was interested from cover to cover and didn’t want to put it down (obviously ).
But, unfortunately, there were a few things about it that I didn’t like. Going into reading this book, I was convinced that I was going to LOVE this book, because of how obsessed people have been with her novels lately. Everybody is always talking about how amazing her books are and how I have to read them. I think that maybe all the hype about her books almost made me appreciate it less, because when I wasn’t 100% blown away, I was disappointed and my expectations were let down.
I don’t know if anybody else made this connection, but Sarah Jio’s writing really reminded me of Kate Morton. They both have the same kind of writing style, both deal with the same sort of “family mystery” subject matter, and (at least with the most recent of Morton’s books I’ve read, The Secret Keeper) both featured alternating chapters told from different points of view in different points of time. While I didn’t mind the fact that the authors had similar styles, I just honestly like Morton’s work more than I liked Blackberry Winter. I was pretty bummed that I was able to guess the outcome to most of the mystery at around halfway through the book (although there were still some surprising elements), because I really liked to be surprised — Morton was able to do that for me, but Jio wasn’t. I still think that Blackberry Winter is a really good book, I just can’t deny that Jio just doesn’t hold her own in a comparison to Morton.
Another issue that I had with it was how “convenient” some of the plot points seemed to be. Like how she conveniently found some important pieces of research when others weren’t able to and conveniently just happens to know of a lot of important people related to the mystery. Parts of it just seemed really far-fetched. I felt that parts of Vera’s story had the same aspect as well. I wasn’t totally turned off by it, but I definitely think that Jio could’ve done a better job with that. I also didn’t like the resolution (or lack thereof) to Claire’s relationship with her husband because, to me, it didn’t seem totally natural and, again, gave off the air of convenience.
All that being said, I still rated it four stars on my Goodreads profile and would definitely recommend this book to others, based on it being a quick, page-turning read with a captivating storyline and great character development and depth.