Book Review: MIND OF WINTER, the relationship between a mother and her adopted teenage daughter falls apart during a Christmas blizzard

kasischke, laura - mind of winter (2)Mind of Winter
Laura Kasischke

On Christmas morning, Holly and Eric wake up late, surprised their fifteen-year-old daughter has allowed them to sleep. Eric quickly leaves for the airport to pick up his parents. Holly has the disorienting thought, “We brought something back from Russia.” Thirteen years ago, they’d traveled to a Siberian orphanage to meet Tatiana for the first time, and since they brought her home, a series of unexplained tragedies has befallen their family.

Expecting a full house for Christmas dinner, Holly strains to prepare the meal, and Tatiana is petulant and unhelpful. Meanwhile, Holly receives mysterious calls on her cellphone. The falling snow turns into a blizzard, and Holly’s friends, Thuy and Pearl, the only people invited that she actually wants to see, cancel. One by one, the other guests bow out, and it’s clear that only Holly and Tatiana will be in the house.

Holly frequently shifts between guilt about Tatiana’s past to anger about her behavior which is increasingly sarcastic and cruel as the day progresses, not to mention strange, changing clothes frequently and wearing a pair of boots one would likely see in Russia. Holly decompensates as Tatiana seems to gain control and unexpected things happen around the house–falls, breaking objects, spoiled food.

Mind of Winter had a great payoff in the final pages, but getting there was a bit of an effort. Holly’s vacillations between guilt and anger became tiresome and her arguments with Tatiana seemed repetitive. I found Holly an annoying character which made the book unpleasant to read at times. At the same time, the book had illuminating and horrifying depictions of Siberian orphanages and the international adoption process. I’m not sure that getting through the book, though, is worth that information and the interesting, and to me, surprising, conclusion.