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Ways to Hide in Winter by Sarah St.Vincent
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Ways to Hide in Winter

by Sarah St.Vincent

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448399,598 (3.2)17
A young widow living in the Pennsylvania mountains and flipping burgers for hunters and hikers befriends a stranger visiting from Uzbekistan and becomes embroiled in a manhunt after he confesses to committing a terrible crime in his home country.

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Digital audio narrated by Sarah Mollo-Christensen

A young widow is trying to recover from her own trauma by working in a remote state park deep in Pennsylvania’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Kathleen is fine, she insists, and happy to be left alone. But when a stranger with a heavy accent comes into the store/lodge where she works flipping burgers she is intrigued. He says he’s a student from Uzbekistan, but he’s clearly unprepared for the winter conditions in the park. To Kathleen, Daniil seems shell-shocked, almost terrified, clearly hiding from someone or something.

This is a tightly written, marvelous psychological / political thriller. The characters are skittish, guarded, and yet reveal themselves by their actions. Kathleen and Daniil recognize in one another a certain similarity – both are running from the truth, both profess to need solitude even a way to hide away, and yet both want desperately to confide and reveal their pain and their hopes. They both crave and fear connection. It’s difficult to believe that either of them will ever achieve happiness; their pasts are just too traumatic.

This short novel includes some major issues: domestic abuse, drug addiction, military and political intrigue / espionage. The landscape is practically a character, and adds to the feeling of isolation, loneliness and imminent danger. The reader is kept in suspense to the very end.

Sarah Mollo-Christensen does a marvelous job of narrating the audiobook. I particularly liked the way she voiced Daniil and Martin. ( )
  BookConcierge | Oct 14, 2019 |
Kathleen runs a small country store attached to a hostel in the remote Pennsylvania hills. She has obviously suffered some type of trauma in the past from which she has not yet recovered. One day a man she first thinks seems to be a Russian checks into the hostel, and it soon becomes apparent that he is hiding from something or someone. Nevertheless he and Kathleen begin to develop a relationship.
This book seems to be trying to be a psychological thriller, or perhaps even a spy thriller, and it is trying to present the reader with serious issues of moral ambiguity. It fails. It does not have the depth of detail to create an entirely believable situation. It is all rather simplistic.
I did like to read about Kathleen's dysfunctional family, her abusive ex-husband, and the down-and-out community in which she lives. As a domestic drama, the book could have been okay; as a political thriller, a failure. ( )
  arubabookwoman | Oct 7, 2019 |
I think this had potential, but somehow tried to tell too many stories. Kathleen is a single woman who has been in a terrible car accident. She runs a store near a remote state park. It's getting winter so very few customers. Across the way is a hostel, also barely staying open in the winter. A stranger appears with a foreign accent. He and Kathleen spend time together and he tells her he is from Uzbekistan and has left the country because he has done terrible things mainly "betraying" people.

Kathleen is living with an aged grandmother and is apparently from a pretty dysfunctional family. She has a story, the stranger has a story, her story comes apparently in the second half of the book unveiling her marriage to a cruel man who later dies in the auto accident.

I think the author was trying to tell a story about being kind to those that deserve no kindness. "Do unto the least of these...." but I'm not sure that goal is accomplished. There is a lot of mental angst and self-questioning. Disappointing. ( )
  maryreinert | Feb 27, 2019 |
A humane and—in spite of some intense violence—gentle novel that explores the growing friendship between a young widow and a refugee from Uzbekistan, each side of the relationship framed by the the punishing load of secrets they both carry, all set against the winter landscape of rural Pennsylvania. But aside from its very deliberate thriller-like pacing as those secrets slowly unfurl, the book is more substantially concerned with exploring themes of guilt, forgiveness, loneliness, concealment, and the large and small ways people harm each other. This is one of those books that prove the point that reading fiction can make you a more compassionate person—it grapples with some hard issues of personal culpability and doesn't return pat answers.

The writing here is low-key, appropriately atmospheric, and for the most part well done, though foreshadowing is some dicey business and needs to be done with a lighter touch. But overall the novel was moral in an un-preachy fashion that I appreciate in fiction, and St. Vincent kept it honest enough to keep me engaged. ( )
5 vote lisapeet | Jan 3, 2019 |
‘’If this were the last thing you ever saw, would you be happy?’’

Kathleen, a young woman who lives with her ailing grandmother, has buried herself in a town hidden in the beautiful wilderness of Pennsylvania. In a community that seems unable to understand or even to think properly, Kathleen tries to remain unnoticed and silent, burdened with a cruel past. Things take a different turn when a stranger arrives from Uzbekistan, carrying his own demons along the way. With a harsh winter as the background, this story had so much potential but unfortunately, I found it to be inconsistent and flat.

The winter setting is brilliantly depicted and the wilderness reflects the main themes of the story, secrets, threat and moral ambiguity. I appreciated the writer’s effort to centre a story around morality and doubts, the fact that right and wrong isn’t written in stone. This is amply demonstrated in an intriguing discussion between Kathleen and Daniil on Raskolnikov’s character in Dostoevsky’s masterpiece Crime and Punishment, the epitome of the ambiguous, divisive character. However, this is exactly where I felt that the writer bit more than she could chew.

‘’Sometimes people become things they didn’t expect to become.’’

I’ve been struggling to put this mildly but I’m afraid I can’t. The writer’s comments through Kathleen came across as mighty stupid. At least, by my standards. I mean, ‘’Unlucky German and Japanese officers…’’ Unlucky? Really? How about the millions of ‘unlucky’ dead during the Second World War? Am I supposed to feel bad about the Nazis? About monsters? Am I supposed to follow the logic of ‘’they were just obeying orders’’? Well, no, I won’t. Ever. Either the writer wants us to believe that Kathleen is more stupid that she sounds or St.Vincent herself is in some serious need a) of help, b) of a serious History lesson and c) of a writing workshop. Furthermore, the attempt to juxtapose Daniil’s story with the actions of the Nazis is naive, in my opinion.

Daniil is an intriguing character. His philosophy and decisions reflect a complex individual, a character that may not be likable or trustworthy but one whose story you care about. Kathleen, on the other hand, seems boring in comparison, at least during the first half of the book. The fact that she has secrets is evident and it didn’t make me more interested in her story. This comes down to the writing quality which isn’t exactly award-winning, in my opinion. The dialogue is average, at best. Especially Kathleen’s parts are occasionally cringe-worthy. Too many ‘’I guess’’, ‘’it’s okay’’, ‘’kind of’’, ‘’I suppose’’ and so on and so forth. Daniil’s dialogue is infinitely better, probably reflecting his cultural and academic background. And don’t get me started on the secondary characters because they were an ordeal...In my opinion, the conclusion of the story was predictable and rather disappointing. Hollywood-bad…

So, a novel that lacks balance and writing quality. This is my overall impression upon finishing it. There were brief moments of beauty in the descriptive parts and an extremely interesting male protagonist but Kathleen and her melodramatic, repetitive story along with her absurd choices made this an indifferent read. And obviously, the problematization that I should feel pity for war criminals isn’t one to resonate with me…

Many thanks to Melville House and Edelweiss for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

My reviews can also be found on https://theopinionatedreaderblog.wordpress.com ( )
1 vote AmaliaGavea | Dec 22, 2018 |
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The last of the deer hunters had come through for the day, and I was closing the store, counting the cash and watching the snow turn the gravel parking lot into a dappled expanse of white on gray.
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