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Mind of Winter

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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.

276 pages, Hardcover

First published August 22, 2013

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About the author

Laura Kasischke

45 books389 followers
Laura Kasischke is an American fiction writer and American poet with poetry awards and multiple well reviewed works of fiction. Her work has received the Juniper Prize, the Alice Fay di Castagnola Award from the Poetry Society of America, the Pushcart Prize, the Elmer Holmes Bobst Award for Emerging Writers, and the Beatrice Hawley Award. She is the recipient of two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as several Pushcart Prizes.

Her novel The Life Before Her Eyes is the basis for the film of the same name, directed by Vadim Perelman, and starring Uma Thurman and Evan Rachel Wood. Kasischke's work is particularly well-received in France, where she is widely read in translation. Her novel A moi pour toujours (Be Mine) was published by Christian Bourgois, and was a national best seller.

Kasischke attended the University of Michigan and Columbia University. She is also currently a Professor of English Language and of the Residential College at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She lives in Chelsea, Michigan, with her husband and son.

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 785 reviews
Profile Image for Delee.
243 reviews1,135 followers
October 12, 2017
Something followed them from Russia

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Holly and Eric Judge wake up late on a snowy Christmas day- As Eric rushes off to pick up family at the airport- Holly stays behind to get ready for their holiday dinner guests...but something feels so wrong...and the same phrase keeps running through her mind over and over again...

Something followed them from Russia

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Thirteen years ago Holly and Eric traveled to a Siberian orphanage and adopted the most beautiful little girl- Tatiana, and today "Tatty" is acting strange and moody. One minute fine...the next minute sullen and dark...nothing makes sense...nothing except, maybe...

Something followed them from Russia

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With the weather getting worse, and guest after guest calling to cancel- Holly tries to focus on the task at hand...but her thoughts keep wandering to weird occurrences in the past...her husband out in the icy cold...her daughter's odd behavior...and that...

Something followed them from Russia...

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MIND OF WINTER is a creepy, dark, atmospheric tale- with suspense, suspense, and mooooore suspense! It's sometimes a little repetitive and frustrating, but completely worth it in the end.
Profile Image for karen.
3,988 reviews170k followers
August 14, 2019
this is a brisk little family drama/psychological suspense novel that all takes place on a blizzardy christmas day in the suburbs of detroit. holly and her husband eric oversleep on christmas morning, feeling the effects of their festive drinking the night before. holly wakes up with the phrase Something had followed them home from Russia running through her brain, and eric rushes off to the airport to pick up his parents, leaving holly alone in the house with their 15-year-old daughter tatiana (tatty) who they adopted from russia when she was just a baby girl. tatty is cranky and sulking, which holly writes off as teenage punishment for their not having had a "proper" family christmas morning, and she tries to engage tatty in the preparations for the holiday gathering that will be taking place at their house, preparations which are already running well behind.

as the hours goes by, it starts to snow, and tatty begins to behave oddly - changing her clothes and her attitude at the drop of a hat, and although holly tries to draw tatty out, she becomes increasingly frustrated by her daughter's changeable mood swings and frazzled by all the work she still has ahead of her. the snowfall becomes a blizzard, and one by one, the guests call to cancel, leaving the two women alone as the outside world is erased by the deepening snow. eric calls to say that his mother has taken ill, and that they have become trapped at the hospital by the blizzard, and with that, holly and tatty's isolation is complete.

tatty drifts in and out of her room all day - sometimes cheerful and helpful and sometimes downright frightening with her glares and ominous pronouncements. while she is off sleeping or otherwise avoiding her mother, holly finds herself drifting into memories of the long and difficult adoption process that brought tatty into their lives, and several strange and dark situations that do not seem to be directly connected to tatty, but which contribute to the stifling and spooky tone the book begins to develop. holly also ruminates on what she sees as her own shortcomings as a wife, a mother, and a writer, while that same phrase keeps stubbornly drifting through her head: Something had followed them home from Russia. as time ticks by, and the tension between mother and daughter escalates, holly begins to be more honest with herself, and she scratches away the surface of memories she has long subsumed in half-truths to get to the meaning of the mysterious phrase, and the truth about her beloved tatty.

this is a disorienting and claustrophobic literary thriller with an increasingly-unreliable narrator and elements of the horror, family mystery, dark fairytale, and psychological suspense genres that escalates into a satisfying twist ending that i won't spoil here. it is also an incredibly fast read, which might be why i only gave it three stars - just because i felt that this book and i barely got to spend any time together, unlike holly and tatty did. so we'll call it a 3.5, and i do recommend it as an example of psych suspense done well, but if you are a fast reader, have something else on deck and ready to go.

come to my blog!
Profile Image for Trisha.
35 reviews16 followers
April 3, 2014
If I had to read the word "Siberia" one more time, I was going to lose my mind. Very repetitive, very terribly paced, and full of inconsistencies. Interesting and decent idea for a story that just fell flat in execution.
Profile Image for Mauoijenn.
1,127 reviews114 followers
December 21, 2014
Holy smoking marshmallows... This was a hell of a ride. I was very intrigued by this story and what I heard about it. I admit the first 30 pages I was like wtf!? This crazy woman has lost it. I stuck with it as it had to be leading somewhere. And boy did it!!

That ending...
Profile Image for Bill Kupersmith.
Author 1 book203 followers
December 13, 2021
Mind of Winter is a contemporary version of a favorite Victorian genre, the Christmas ghost story. I had read Laura Kasischke's book The Raising a few years ago with very mixed impressions. It portrayed a university (obviously Michigan) setting excellently with an intriguing mystery, but was marred by implausibility & the author’s failure to make up her mind whether she was going for the out-&-out paranormal or not. This time I think she came down on just the right side of the natural/supernatural divide. She steadily puts the frighteners on the reader subtly but inexorably, moving from creepy to spooky to scarier than all-get-out. (Just wait till you find out what Holly finds Tatiana doing with the intended Christmas dinner!) In hindsight we see some implausibilities in the plotting as Holly slowly realizes what really happened @ that Siberian orphanage. But as a suspenseful read the technique works perfectly for us. Like a Mannheim crescendo the horrible truth dawns more & more brightly as Holly’s memories flood back in larger & larger waves & we are aware of what must have happened just before Holly herself recognizes just what she brought home with her - & what she left behind.

This book is also a beautiful piece of writing. Some reviewers actually said the POV was 1st person, but it’s not. It’s 3rd-person limited with a focus so tight as almost to seem like we’re sharing Holly’s thoughts. (Virginia Woolf used a similar technique.) Holly is supposed to be a poet (as is Laura Kasischke in reality) & when there’s a figure of speech it’s fresh & vivid, but still natural & unobtrusive. Seems wonderful that although most of the authors I read faithfully & obsessively are British & some of the books I’ve liked best have been Australian, the very best prose I’ve read recently has been by Americans, Rebecca Scherm, Marisha Pessl, & now Laura Kasischke. How fortunate we are all to have a common language that features so many interesting variations.
Profile Image for David.
Author 18 books349 followers
September 21, 2014
This book would have made a great short story. Instead it was a short novel, and at least twice as long as it needed to be.

We spend the entire book (except for the epilogue) in the mind of Holly Judge. It's not a very interesting place, notwithstanding Holly's somewhat interesting history, which emerges slowly as the story, all taking place during one blizzardy Christmas day, but frequently cut with flashbacks, unfolds.

Holly and her husband adopted a baby from a Russian orphanage: a beautiful little girl who grew into a dark-haired beauty named Tatiana. Now Tatiana is fifteen, and acting like a typical fifteen-year-old with a serious case of bitchadolescence. Holly's husband goes to pick up his parents at the airport, but the snow and a health crisis keeps him from being able to get home. Then all the dinner guests they were going to have also call to cancel because of the blizzard, leaving Holly alone with Tatiana and the recurring-to-the-point-of-irritation thought that "Something had followed them home from Russia."

As the day goes on, Tatiana's behavior becomes more bitchy, erratic, and finally, creepy and disturbing. And between every few minutes of time passing in the present, we get another glimpse into Holly's past - her failed aspirations as a poet, her discovery that she carries the gene that makes her a high risk for breast or ovarian cancer, her and Eric's decision to adopt, their trips to Pokrovka Orphanage #2 in Siberia to adopt Tatiana, and the slow unveiling that something... isn't... right.

This could have been a splendid horror story, but the author could not seem to decide whether she was writing women's fiction (most of the novel is spent dwelling on Holly's angst and her internal monologue as she tries to deal with her difficult daughter, none of which casts her as a particularly sympathetic character) or a thriller.

By the end, I just wanted to be done with it, and I persevered because I wanted to find out what the big secret was.

I will give Kasischke credit for keeping me guessing — I had a number of theories running at various points in the story, some of them involving the supernatural, some not. The truth was not quite what I guessed, though I was close.

That said, this is a meandering internal monologue about trying to be a modern career-woman/mother, cancer, difficult childhoods, being a mother is so hard but we looooved our little adopted Russian orphan girl sooooooo much boohoo won't someone please pin a freakin' medal on me, and then the denouement, which should have happened a couple of chapters earlier.

A slightly suspenseful read but I can't give it more than 3 stars because there was way too much internal monologue and not enough suspense.
Profile Image for A..
351 reviews48 followers
December 21, 2022
Holly y Eric adoptaron a Tatiana hace 13 años, en un orfanato de Siberia. Una mañana de Navidad, Holly se despierta con resaca y una extraña convicción: Algo los ha seguido desde Rusia. A partir de allí todo se tornará confuso, angustiante y misteriosamente reiterativo ¿Por qué? ¿Qué está pasando?
Con un cierto aroma a "I'm Thinking of Ending Things" pero sin alcanzar ese nivel de perturbador desconcierto, esta novela me resultó un doloroso "quiero pero no puedo". Una buena idea, con una ejecución bastante decepcionante. Un final que, lamentablemente, se ve venir desde el principio anticipado por un desarrollo dilatado que hubiera funcionado muchísimo mejor en un cuento que en una novela.
Dos estrellas y media por la idea inicial (más que decente) que se diluye hasta un final demasiado obvio. Una pena.
Profile Image for P.E..
777 reviews558 followers
April 25, 2020

Christmas morning.
Holly, Eric, and their adopted daughter Tatiana are going to enjoy a bit of family holiday celebration. Holly prepares the feast, while Eric drives to the airport to pick up his parents. Tatiana enjoys a bit of extra sleep.
Yet weather worsens and soon blizzard rages outside. Then, unaccountable vanishings occur. The more time goes, the more the scenery looks akin to Tatiana's birthplace... Siberia.


This novel deals masterfully with focalization. In a way it is all about subjectivity.
The whole narration works as a huis clos in between Holly and Tatiana.

To begin with, you witness Holly's opinions and thoughts and moods from the inside. And this is not going to be a pleasant feeling... For starters, Holly proves an somewhat oblivious, narrow-minded and highly judgmental person. Early on in the onset, the adoptive mother behaves overtly as an arrant annoyance of a helicopter parent. Yet she is also endowed with a more sensitive, genuinely vulnerable and self-doubting personality. This is but the lightest and most shallow side of the nasty things in store. And as the story progresses, rest assured there is time enough to dwell on the past 13 years since Tatiana has been adopted in the family.

As an afterthought, I consider this story quite a potent illustration on the theory of attachment styles.

The whole narration is run as a huis clos in between Holly and Tatiana, laden with dormant hostility, episodes of otherworldly unaccountedness, bouts of violent denial, visceral, uncanny descriptions of banal items, and a massive amount of discreet, almost unremarkable factoids yet once gathered, giving one of the most disturbing pattern I have ever read on print.

As far as form goes, the whole novel develops undivided by chapters. You only get a space here and now to sever the unsteady progression of this riveting piece of literature...


The Eye In the Sky - Philip K. Dick
Les garçons de l'été - Rebecca Lighieri
Fight Club - Chuck Palahniuk
The Trial - Franz Kafka
La Chute - Albert Camus

Lost Highway - David Lynch
The Game - David Fincher


A Wolf at the Door - Radiohead
Profile Image for ☆LaurA☆.
247 reviews74 followers
October 9, 2022
Cosa diamine ho letto? No...non credo di aver colto a pieno questo libro.
Fino a tre quarti della storia non succede nulla o almeno...è natale, madre e figlia restano sole a casa causa tempesta di neve, il padre bloccato in ospedale con i nonni....e uno dice che sfiga, ma vabbè. La madre fin dalle prime pagine mi sembra psicolabile....avrà ripetuto 200 volte che qualcosa dalla Russia le aveva seguite (premetto che la figlia era stata adottata proprio dalla Russia e ti viene da dire:" CERTO CHE QUALCOSA TI HA SEGUITO DALLA RUSSIA...TUA FIGLIA TI HA SEGUITO DALLA RUSSIA, MA CE LA FAI?"
Comincia così a raccontare la storia dell'adozione, della malattia ereditaria a cui è sopravvisuta, dell'arrosto in forno, delle poesie che non riesce a scrivere.....e quando sembra, perché sembra e basta, che stia per succedere qualcosa....il libro è finito! No beh grazie...non ve la dico la fine se no non lo leggerete mai 😅
Resto dell'idea che sia io a non aver empatizzato con i personaggi.
Profile Image for Kelli.
851 reviews403 followers
April 10, 2015
What?! I'm sorry...what?!

This book drags you into a confusing vortex...makes you think, question, sleuth, wonder, rethink. Your mind goes here and then over there, as you try to put the pieces together.

I'm not sure I should be reviewing this book just hours after finishing it. I will be able to say almost nothing about it anyway, considering that you can't and won't have any idea what the flock (here is where I deeply regret not knowing where the italics & bold print is on the iPad) is going on here. This book is dark and creepy, suffocating and fragmented. It's very possible that the resounding complaints others have about the structure of this book is actually quite calculated on the part of the author and if so, potentially brilliant. There is so much I could say about the cat and the wallpaper (when will I ever repeat that sentence?!) but it's probably better I say nothing at all.

I thought about this book for weeks after finishing it. It was very different.
Profile Image for Lisa.
750 reviews136 followers
July 11, 2014
What an odd, creepy little book.

I've read some of the reviews, and one complaint is that it's repetitive. Well, it's repetitive for a reason: .

Any book that takes place during a huge, blinding snowstorm is already winning with me. And I liked how the entire novel happens between 8:00 AM and 8:00 PM on Christmas Day. And I liked that you're left with questions. I have questions!!!! If anyone reads or has read this book, please let's chat about it! I'd love to hear someone else's take on the ending. Four stars for such a snow-filled, oddball creep of a book.
Profile Image for switterbug (Betsey).
845 reviews806 followers
January 16, 2014
This reads like a domestic, psychological horror story, and the tone is like an increasingly hysterical ode sung by a panicked woman. Holly Judge senses something dreadful in her midst, and at the start of the novel, she says, several times (in italics), "Something had followed them home from Russia." Holly is a blocked poet wanna-be, insisting that if she could just pick up a pen, she could write down these strange thoughts that are curling around her head.

The beginning of a novel often sets the pace and potential, and I was slightly turned off by this one line repetition. Instead of haunting or poetic, it began to irritate me; it came across as clunky. Holly was very anguished, but it was taxing to start off so soon with hysterics. It opened with her woe that the family overslept on this holiday, which distresses Holly beyond what seemed organic. Alone in the house with her daughter on Christmas day, Holly narrates the entire novel. The guests invited to her house for the holiday are homebound, stuck because of a blizzard occurring in their Michigan city. Eric, her husband, braves the blizzard to pick up his parents at the airport, and becomes delayed returning home because his parents are ill.

Holly and Eric's teenaged daughter, Tatiana, came from a Russian orphanage. When Holly and her husband went to Siberia to adopt her, they saw that the poverty-stricken conditions of the orphanage affected the care that these babies and children received. Holly was always very protective and loving to Tatiana, but it is evident that Holly and Tatiana aren't very close right now. Tatiana appears to be going through a rebellious phase, and is rude and smug to her mother. As Holly waits for her husband to return, she recounts to the reader her medical history (why she can't get pregnant), her experience at the orphanage, and her years as a mother, as well as her aborted ambition as a poet. You sense something is eerie when strange things happen on Holly's iPhone.

As things heat up, the reader is taken into a dark place, one that Holly is swept into as the narrative progresses. The problem I had was that, although the writing is capable, it is also inconsistent. There's too much repetition, perhaps on purpose, but it had the opposite effect of building tension. Holly's voice is overwrought and fatalistic throughout the novel, way before the denouement, so that when it occurs, I was too prepared for it. I kind of figured it out, at least 80% of it, but I wasn't significantly compelled, either, by any surprises.

I think this would have worked better as a short story. I stayed engaged enough to finish it, and at times, I was absorbed in Kasischke's descriptions of Holly's experiences in Russia. But the iterations came off as filler. I didn't enjoy this as much as her novel, THE LIFE BEFORE HER EYES. Perhaps I was looking for something more complex, and was underwhelmed when it ended.
Profile Image for False.
2,306 reviews10 followers
April 23, 2014
I had read a good review on Entertainment Weekly, and they are usually pretty dependable. I am aware, however, that their critics tastes don't always jibe with mine. I read this book in a few hours, something an author never wants to hear. I didn't really care for it. The only part I did like was the last page which was a police report-document. The final surprise, and I won't repeat it, didn't carry the impact we had been building to. I got fed up with the protagonist and her constant dithering and uncertainty in herself. I wish the author had done more by incorporating the blizzard that pervades the period being covered. Maybe more about Russia. I got no sense of Michigan whatsoever. I view this as a matter of taste. It wasn't mine. I am sure many will report back that they loved it.
Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,782 reviews14.2k followers
March 30, 2014
This book really grabbed a hold of me and didn't let go until the finish. Not usually a fan of first person narration, but I. this case except for some repetitive passages, it really worked. Private musings and inner thought, remembrances and fears, all belonging to a mom named Holly, who had adopted a young toddler from an orphanage in Siberia. Not saying anymore about the plot because this is one book that the less the reader knows before hand the better. Just know it is insidiously creepy and the ending was a total surprise. The blizzard background certainly added to the tension in the plot.

ARC from publisher.
Profile Image for Katy.
1,293 reviews281 followers
December 2, 2013
Book Info: Genre: Suspense
Reading Level: Adult
Recommended for: fans of heavily character-driven stories and unreliable narrators
Book Available: March 25, 2014 in Hardcover and Kindle formats
Trigger Warnings: child abuse and neglect
Animals: mention is made (although it is not described) that a cat is run over; four hens peck another one to death

My Thoughts: I am not sure what to make of this book. Is it a slow descent into madness? Is it a ghost story? Is it allegorical or literal? The descriptions of the Siberian orphanage were enough to tear the reader's heart out, but by the end of the book, that will be the least of the traumas to which the reader has been subjected. So much of this speaks to the sorts of nightmares that adoptive parents have, and to their fears and insecurities.

I imagine a lot of readers will be put off by the disjointed and repetitive nature of the narrative, but for me it works to show just how frazzled and stretched Holly is. Holly is also a master of ignoring uncomfortable truths, pretending that everything is okay when really it is not.

Tatiana's definition of a soul was interesting to me. “The soul was the thing hidden inside the thing, and it made it what it was. You could not be, say, an actual parrot without a parrot soul.” It isn't the most profound, as Tatiana came up with it when she was nine, but it was interesting, and a good example of the sorts of things that she tended to think about. Make no mistake, this entire book is Holly's paean to Tatiana, to the idea of her, to the reality of her. Holly's obsession with her daughter, and her fears for her, are plain to see for all readers.

This one hit me right in the feels. As an adopted child myself, I am familiar with the sorts of things that adoptive parents have to deal with. I am familiar with the things that adoptees have to deal with. The synopsis will lead you to believe that this story is about something supernatural, but to me the story was about Holly and her feelings for, about, and surroundings Tatiana. Who—or what—Tatiana is in this book, that is the question you will have to decide for yourself. This is a very haunting book and I think people who enjoy heavily character-driven stories with unreliable narrators will enjoy this book.

Disclosure: I received an ARC through the Amazon Vine program in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Synopsis: 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.
Profile Image for Rachel (TheShadesofOrange).
2,206 reviews3,216 followers
October 8, 2018
4.0 Stars
This was a very slow burning novel of pyschological suspense and horror. Most of the narrative took place inside the mind of our main character, who was not completely likeable. The novel addresssed feminine themes like fertility and motherhood, which likely would most appeal to female readers. Admittedly, I thought the narrative dragged a bit in the middle section. However, I loved the ending so much. This story was dark and disturbing in such an unexpected way.
Profile Image for Kat.
477 reviews167 followers
August 5, 2014
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.
Profile Image for April.
271 reviews72 followers
February 9, 2014
I finished Mind of Winter into the wee hours of the morning, once I got to a certain point I just couldn't out it down for my life. This is not only a very creepy psychological read, it's also got a very emotional element to it. You can't help but be drawn into this Christmas day gone horribly wrong. You'll be aghast at the last page ( don't you dare take a peak it'll spoil it for you!)
Profile Image for April.
240 reviews1 follower
February 26, 2022
Ugh. This book had potential. As a short story, I think it could have been brilliant. But...

“Something followed them home from Russia.” After the first 20 repetitions, I started groaning every time I read that phrase. This was made worse by the fact that... you know what followed them home from Russia? Abso-freaking-lutely *nothing.*

Holly/mom spends a lot of time reminiscing on the past. She had a rough childhood. It’s sad. But does it have any significance on present events? Nope. Not at all. Even the reminisces on Tatiana’s adoption start to feel mind-numbingly repetitive. More than once, I honestly thought I’d lost my place in the book and was rereading a section I’d already read. But nope. We’re just rehashing the same story ad nauseam.

If it had been a short story (thankfully, it’s not a super long book, or I would have been genuinely pissed at the waste of time), I might not have felt so cheated by the end. As it was, it felt like all this buildup... and then the author got bored with the story and ended it.

If you are one of those poor souls who are trying to slog through this book, curious as to what is going on and you feel guilty just giving up and never knowing, this is for you:

***BIG SPOILER! I’m warning you now. If you read the next part, you’re not allowed to be upset with me for ruining the ending. (By all means, be upset with the author for wasting however much of your time you’ve spent reading already, but none of that wrath should be directed at me.)***

Know how mom rants a few times about how healthy little Tatty is? Not true. Remember those “blue-tinted lips” and blue-tinted skin? That’s not normal no matter how pale you are. That is, in fact, generally a warning sign that someone’s got a pretty serious health condition and isn’t absorbing enough oxygen. Our girl Tatiana is no exception. She’s had a congenital heart problem that mom’s been in denial about. Mom apparently finds Tatiana dead, has a complete break from reality, and is interacting with her daughter a la Norman Bates and his mother in Psycho.

Like I said... as a short story, I might not have felt so cheated by that ending. But with all of the “something followed them home from Russia” crap, the weird interactions between Holly and Tatiana, and all the completely unnecessary backstory, it felt like the author was trying hard to convince the reader there was a supernatural explanation just so there could be a “Ha! Gotcha!” twist at the end.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Sara Strand.
1,165 reviews32 followers
March 28, 2014
I will tell you right now that I almost gave up on this book in the first few pages simply because if I read the line, "something followed them from Russia" one more time, I was probably going to throw the book. There are ways to make a story escalate, to increase the anxiety in a reader in less annoying ways than repeating a single line multiple times. It makes you feel like Holly is a crazy loon from the word go.

And I want to tell you a LOT more about this story and my insight but the downside to that is I'll ruin it all. I will tell you that the entire book is really whacked out. It's the story of Holly, on Christmas morning, and it's her inner conversation about her daughter Tatty, the challenges of having a teenager and it's just super odd. You know right from the word go something isn't right and I think my first clue is how many times she referred to her daughter's skin. Which makes no sense to you right now, but as you read it you will start to wonder what in the mother hell is going on here. Also, the phone call. There is a part in here where people call and the way they speak to Holly and how Tatiana doesn't respond and I thought right there, something isn't as it seems. Something is definitely wrong here.

I spent this whole story focusing on Tatiana and her bizarre behavior and then I get to the very last page. In fact, the very last paragraph on the very last page and it's such a game changer you automatically want to re-read it to see where you went wrong deciphering this story. Because it's that bizarre. By the time you get to the last page you don't know what to think and you will find yourself saying, "Are you bleeping kidding me???".

It's a really bizarre book and I wasn't scared until that last page and I realized what I had just read. It was creepy and terrifying by the time I got there and it was 3am and I hadn't slept yet and I won't lie- I checked on my kids. *shudder*
Profile Image for Karielle at Books à la Mode.
330 reviews83 followers
April 26, 2014
They never speculated whether Tatiana might have inherited her love of horses from some Mongol ancestor or whether her lovely singing voice had been passed down from a gypsy grandmother. Neither of them speculated as to whether there might be manic depression tucked away in those genes, as there was in Holly's, or heart disease, cancer, anything. Their daughter had come to them without legacy. She was so beautiful and perfect she did not need one.

On Christmas morning, Holly Judge comes to with a startling message from a foggy dream she's just awaken from: something had followed them home from Russia.

Something had followed them home from Russia! These words, in the context of her daughter, Tatiana's adoption from Pokrovka Orphanage #2 in Siberia 13 years ago, should send chills up your spine. As Holly deals with the domestic mishaps of stressful Christmas dinner preparations, readers tap into the reflective, wistful dusty corners of Holly's mind. Her thoughts drift from her troubled childhood, to her hardest battles, to Baby Tatty's excruciating but worthwhile adoption, to Tatiana's adolescence; these flashbacks are what make up the secure, nostalgic portion of the book.

In the present, however, Holly must face something far more frightening than her personal tragedies and memories: her daughter. The frustration of motherhood is really well captured through Holly's third person narrative. She's excessively sensitive—paranoid, easily startled, a bit overbearing—but her egocentric way of thought is forgiven solely because of how relatable she is, how easy to sympathize with.

Tatiana and Holly's relationship is slightly morbid, a bit eerie to begin with. There's something lurkingly alarming about Holly being trapped inside the house in a snowstorm with a daughter that isn't acting like herself anymore, and although their interactions only occur within a span of eight hours (or so), they take up the entire novel, which should be an indication of just how scrutinizingly—just how comprehensively—Holly's life story unravels.

No matter how much you reflect, the past will always catch up with you, Holly realizes when her reminiscences culminate with a jarring, unexpected revelation that tilts her perspective, sense, and reality a several degrees. The ending of the book—which I won't give away—will make your mind reel and have you rethinking the virtues of destiny, sanity, and delusion of perfection.

Laura Kasischke is a clear poet, with smooth and imaginative style that sets a perfectly chilling and increasingly distressing mood. I noticed a lot of readers on Goodreads complaining about the repetition of certain lines and the exaggerated alarm with which Holly perceives the world, but—hello?—that's the entire POINT of her writing style! Kasischke's merit isn't quite literary, but it's sensuous, it's poetic, and it needs to be read like a movie script would: dramatically, frenetically.

I know the cover is really creepy, and while I can definitely vouch for a disturbing quality to this novel, I also have to say it isn't all blood and guts and gore; I wouldn't call this a horror novel, exactly. It's more about horror of the mind; Mind of Winter is a shadowy psychological thriller that won't only have your heart leaping up in your chest, but will also make you consider the limitations of a solitary perspective, and what it means to truly understand a story.

Completely absorbing... it was hard for me to stop reading! // Mind-blowing turn of events // Structurally and stylistically bizarre, but that much more impressive // Nothing violent or explicit, but as a trigger warning, there is definitely some emotionally disturbing content // Poetic, repetitive flow to Kasischke's voice // Vivid, detailed style // Introspective // Presents accurate remarks about the joys and dangers of what's inside of us // One of those books that will make you double-take and think hard

No chapters or clear structure to the book, which I understand is intentional, but it made it hard to find stopping points while reading (not that I wanted to stop reading) // Creeped out the living sh!t out of me (which is actually pretty cool, now that I think about it)

"It isn't repression to acknowledge the horrors of this world and let them go. It's freedom."

Tranquilly dark, hauntingly portrayed, and ultimately, completely mind-bending, Laura Kasischke's latest novel is a hair-raising glimpse at not only a repressive household's mother-daughter relationship, but also into the scariest place possible: the human mind. While not explicit or particularly horrific, Mind of Winter has some disturbing content that keeps me from recommending it to the average Jane. However, if, like me, you can stomach that kind of psychological manipulation from the author, and if you're a fan of unreliable narrators, macabre portraits of repression and denial, and characters that come with no baggage or legacy, then this is your next must-read. Buy yourself a copy now.

Rating: 9 out of 10 hearts (5 stars): Loved it! This book has a spot on my favorites shelf.

Complimentary copy provided by publisher via tour publicist in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you, Harper Collins and TLC!).
Profile Image for Jan.
Author 4 books35 followers
March 28, 2014
To say that this book is 'haunting' doesn't quite capture its insidious power. I believe this story will be following me around for weeks. Though some readers might guess where the book is leading earlier on, I was gobsmacked by the stunning conclusion, which made everything that occurred in the novel prior come into stark relief. I will be re-reading this book with the benefit of this hindsight, looking for clues and foreshadowing that I missed, and I am sure I will admire it just as much the second time around. This is a moving, terrifying work.
Profile Image for Juliet.
119 reviews2 followers
April 30, 2014
Oh my gosh, so boring. The first problem, admittedly, is the narrator, who has the most pretentious, grating voice. But it seems so fitting for the pretentious, grating protagonist who spends 5 1/2 discs whining about her first-world problems and making insightful observations such as, if I step on the broken glass, I'll get cut. The payoff, when it finally comes at the end, is not nearly enough to compensate for the lost hours of my life. This might have made a decent short story, about 1/10 its current length.
Profile Image for Iris.
474 reviews71 followers
December 18, 2017
Una historia que al principio pensé en abanadonar por repetitiva. Luego caí en cuenta que lo repetitivo era síntoma de algún problema y aunque todas las pistas estuvieron claras e incluso cuestioné varias de ellas, las pasé por alto y no fue hasta el final algo impactante y horripilante que até todos los cabos.
Profile Image for Tauna.
187 reviews7 followers
December 7, 2015
After I started reading this book I realized this author also wrote The Raising, a book I pretty much hated. But everyone deserves a second chance, right? Maybe this book would be amazing!

I thought the premise was interesting, (I think I read a little blurb about it in a magazine that led me to read it.) Holly and her husband Eric adopted Tatiana from a Siberian orphanage. This book takes place on Christmas day, 13 years after the adoption with flashbacks to the adoption process and raising their daughter. I did like the flashbacks to Holly and Eric going to Siberia to adopt Tatiana, but the almost stream of consciousness writing of Holly looking at glasses and then thinking about the orphanage or looking into the backyard and then thinking about Tatiana as a baby, etc was disruptive. I thought the pacing was super disjointed and tangential and repetitive. I don't know if that was supposed to add to the thriller "ambience" of the story, or if it was just poor writing. I also personally am not a fan of poetry so the many references to it (Holly is a failed poet) were annoying for me.

Ugh. Anyway. Rant aside, the book did keep me reading, even if I did have issues with the writing and the pacing. 2 1/2 stars
Profile Image for Kali VanBaale.
Author 2 books91 followers
November 30, 2015
This is a book that's tricky to discuss because the entire story utterly and completely hinges on the ending (and the reading experience would be completely ruined if the ending were revealed prematurely.)That said, I was a reader who felt the ending delivered all it was supposed to. I really had no idea where author Laura Kasischke was taking the narrative (the possibilities kept piling up, and some of my own imaginative options were a bit ridiculous) but Kasischke's final destination managed to be heartbreaking, plausible, and yet still shocking all at the same time.
As soon as I finished the final page, I immediately flipped back to the first page and started re-reading passages, looking for--and now finding--so many hidden clues and signs. This reader felt the author paid great care and meticulous attention to what she did and did not reveal along the way.

I think the greatest challenge of this book that Kasischke had going against her was trying to write the ambiguous psychological state of mind of the main character. This is a narrator who's state of mind is indecipherable and even confounding and frustrating to the reader at times--that is until all the pieces fall together in the end--but causes some frustration until the pieces do fall into place, nonetheless.
Profile Image for Charlie.
Author 4 books263 followers
January 13, 2014
Being a fan of The Raising, I had to read another book by Laura Kasischke. Mind of Winter takes place on Christmas Day. A perfect storm of emotions, weather, regret, grief, guilt and failures accumulates with the mounting snow from the incoming storm. Isolated with her teen daughter, Holly Judge prepares for a traditional family Christmas. All the stress of preparing a meal and entertaining is heightened when everyone wakes up late on Christmas morning. There is little cheer or comedic relief in this story. The heaviness of fatalism is overwhelming and the sinking feeling of a terrible outcome multiples with each page. Although, this is the goal, it can be a depressing read. I personally have a hard time with books that continue with little relief, but the dark, sinking gloom is achieved. The ending comes a bit quick given the build up and does cut off when reality is revealed. I would have liked to see a bit beyond the reveal. I had questions regarding Holly's husband and parents. However, this can be debated and is a technique used to create discussion. For me, it felt a bit unfinished. When the cracks fractured, I would have liked to see just beyond.
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