Before we dive into my review of this gorgeous book, a little backstory. For years now, I’ve posted and shared my reviews on my blog SilverWoodSketches. Since the mess with Goggle+ and Blogger, I’ve retired the extra blog, and am refocusing my efforts here instead. Over this past year, I’ve begun reading more for me. It’s given me the chance to really sink my teeth into stories like Silver Willow by the Shore. Before I share my thoughts on this inspirational fic, a little info about the book and lovely author, Kelli Stuart.
On Tour with Prism Book Tours
How do you face the future if you don’t know your own past?
When an unexpected pregnancy changes her dreams, seventeen-year-old Annie tries to keep it from her mother and her grandmother. But secrets have a way of coming out. In a household of strong women, the arrival of a new life sets off a spiral of truth that reveals a past full of whispers and lies—a past that existed in another world under the heavy hand of Soviet oppression. This history has dictated the circumstances of the present, but hope, redemption, and forgiveness will grow in the rocky places of these generational differences.
A Silver Willow by the Shore is the story of the unshakeable love between mothers and daughters and of the impact that past decisions can have on present day circumstances. This novel weaves together the stories of generations of women, from the gulags of 1930’s Siberia, to the quiet oppression of 1980’s Soviet Moscow, to present day Tennessee. It is an unforgettable narrative of the treachery of secrets, and of the light that unites the heart of a family.
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5 of 5 Stars
I was immediately drawn into A Silver Willow by the Shore, first, because of its intriguing title, secondly because of its premise. Kelli Stuart has crafted an interweaving tale of three generations, past, present, and future, linked by their shared heritage and wealth of secrets. I’ve always been drawn to Russian culture, ever since my parents first came back from trips to the newly dissolved U.S.S.R with toys from the children whose family they’d stayed with. My papa also came home with Russian songs and words that rolled off the tongue and which our family still sing today. So I immediately connected with the characters Stuart depicted. Even apart from Annie, Nina and Elizaveta’s heritage, I think everyone will connect to the struggles and boundless love between mothers and daughters.
A Silver Willow begins with Elizaveta, a grandmother overburdened with a life built around secrets and a darker past. As a kulak, Elizaveta learned to hide behind lies and do whatever was necessary in order to survive. She came to America unwillingly, yet looking to bridge the broken connection with her estranged daughter Nina. But the gap of years coupled with their habit of keeping secrets makes surmounting their emotional distance impossible. Thrown into the mix is Nina’s teenaged daughter Annie, who has a lot more in common with her grandmother than either is aware. Annie has her own secret she is afraid to tell, along with years of bitterness.
From the beginning, it was clear these three women loved each other and were completely incapable of expressing this love. It was so frustrating for me as a reader that I wanted to reach through the pages and shout at each of them, “She loves you! Don’t be angry anymore!” My frustration with Elizaveta, Nina and Annie’s failures to communicate grew from familiarity. I doubt there’s a woman out there who hasn’t been in their shoes in some way. Wanting so desperately to bridge the gap time and bitterness often creates. Lost on how to proceed, to break through the ice, so-to-speak. Why is it so difficult for us to break these cycles? At times it seems far more comfortable to remain rooted in unhealthy patterns, which is the case for our three heroines. Until life intervenes.
Annie is pregnant, you can gather as much from the synopsis, and when the truth comes out, their little family is shaken to the point their web of secrets shatters. Tragedy and struggle often do this, pull at our threads and twist us inexorably together as we pull through it. I think the most satisfying character journey was Annie’s. She begins the story as a bitter, somewhat traumatized girl. Through her struggle to make the right decision for her baby, she is also forced to quickly grow up, and maybe, if she’s very brave, learn to love herself in the process.
Thought-provoking and heart-rending, A Silver Willow by the Shore is a book that will pull you in and leave you feeling better for it. I don’t give out five-star reviews lightly. I’ve been lucky enough to come across a few exceptionally excellent reads this past year. Kelli Stuart has impressed me with her masterful storytelling and gift of character. You will feel both happiness and heartache with these characters as they live and relive their journeys. Here is a book that dares to question what’s truly important, to push beyond our fears and hatred and not only forgive others but ourselves.
**I was provided with a copy of A Silver Willow by the Shore by the author and this is my voluntary and honest review.**
About the Author
Kelli is a wife, mother, novelist, and the driver of a smoking’ hot minivan. When she isn’t wrangling her five children, she can be found tapping away at the keyboard. Kelli is the award winning author of Like a River From Its Course, her debut novel which won the ACFW Carol Award for Best Historical and was nominated for two Christy Awards. Kelli is also the co-author of Life Creative: Inspiration for Today’s Renaissance Mom with Wendy Speake. You can find more information on her life and writings at http://www.kellistuart.com.
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