Mind of Winter by Laura Kasischke
Expected Publication: 25 March 2014 by HarperCollins
Pages: 288 (hardcover)
Genre/s: Mystery, Psychological
Source: Publisher for review
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.
The strangest thing about Mind of Winter is just how much I enjoyed it, despite the fact there's not really a lot of plot action going on. Normally this is a huge bug-bear for me - I need things to happen to keep me entertained. But I actually didn't even realise the lack of plot action until I was nearly finished, because I was completely sucked in.
Holly had a difficult childhood and adolescence, with both her mother and sister dying of breast cancer at a young age and Holly herself testing positive for a gene that almost guarantees she herself will get breast cancer, she decides that prevention is better than cure and has her ovaries removed and a full mastectomy at age 24. Apart from the motivation of avoiding cancer herself, she also wants to prevent passing the gene down, and as such she and her husband, Eric, adopt baby Tatiana (known as Tatty) from a run-down Russian orphanage.
Mind of Winter takes place over just one day - Christmas Day - during a huge snowstorm. Holly's strange premonition that something followed them home from Russia begins to take over her every moment as she notices more and more changes to her daughters behaviour. Isolated from everyone except Tatty, she picks apart every inconsistency in minute detail.
There are a couple of things that didn't work for me in Mind of Winter - there's an overuse of exclamation points that irritated me right from the beginning, and repeated descriptions of the colour of Tatiana's skin - after the first time I got it that her skin was so pale it was almost tinged with blue, I didn't need to be reminded multiple times.
I also found some inconsistencies in the ending - a few plot lines, such as Eric's absence, weren't completely resolved, and things are left quite open - often I enjoy open endings but this one wasn't particularly satisfying - I wanted more explanation or a more drawn-out conclusion to make it feel more rounded.
However, it's the intensity of Holly's character and dissection of every tiny detail that makes Mind of Winter such an addictive read - and the fact that I desperately wanted to find out what was happening. The way that Mind of Winter is written also made me start to doubt what was real and what was in Holly's imagination - yet another reason why I found this book so readable - I really didn't know if I was seeing everything rationally or if Holly's thoughts were starting to influence how I perceived Tatty and her inconsistencies.
I'm conflicted about how exactly I feel about Mind of Winter - it definitely wins bonus points for keeping me reading despite the lack of plot, and it's certainly chilling, especially coupled with Holly's mindset and the isolation of the two characters, but there were some small issues that prevented me from loving it completely.