Book Review: MIND OF WINTER by Laura Kasischke

Publisher: Harper
Released: March 25, 2014
Source: Borrowed from the library
Rating: ★★★½

Laura Kasischke, the critically acclaimed and nationally bestselling poet and author of The Raising, returns Mind of Winter, a dark and chilling thriller that combines domestic drama with elements of psychological suspense and horror—an addictive tale of denial and guilt that is part Joyce Carol Oates and part Chris Bohjalian.

On a snowy Christmas morning, Holly Judge awakens with the fragments of a nightmare floating on the edge of her consciousness. Something followed them from Russia. Thirteen years ago, she and her husband Eric adopted baby Tatty, their pretty, black-haired Rapunzel, from the Pokrovka Orphanage #2. Now, at fifteen, Tatiana is more beautiful than ever—and disturbingly erratic.

As a blizzard rages outside, Holly and Tatiana are alone. With each passing hour, Tatiana’s mood darkens, and her behavior becomes increasingly frightening…until Holly finds she no longer recognizes her daughter.

This book was a trip. MIND OF WINTER is a psychological thriller about a mother and her 15-year old adopted daughter who are stranded at home on Christmas during a blizzard. The mother, Holly, wakes up that day with the terrible feeling that “something” had followed them home from the Siberian orphanage 13 years earlier. Throughout their day alone, her daughter Tatty’s behavior becomes more moody, unpredictable, and downright disturbing, making Holly fearful of what’s going on.

The story is told from Holly’s point of view, and it alternates between present day (Christmas) and the past, mainly when she and her husband Eric were in Russia for the adoption. I had a difficult time getting into this book, and at about the halfway mark, I cheated and read the ending. (I know! Bad reader!) It’s just that both Holly and Tatty were insufferable characters, and it took a while before the creepiness set in. So, I jumped ahead, read the ending, had a huge OMG moment, then had to go back and read the rest to see how it all played out. Holly was an awful parent, and considering what she went through as a young woman, I can’t believe how irresponsible she was. Ugh.

I think if you have patience with this book, it ends up being eerie, unsettling psychological suspense with some very surprising turn of events along the way.