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Winter Loon

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4.12  ·  Rating details ·  4,748 ratings  ·  545 reviews
A haunting debut novel about family and sacrifice, Winter Loon reminds us of how great a burden the past can be, the toll it exacts, and the freedom that comes from letting it go.

Abandoned by his father after his mother drowns in a frozen Minnesota lake, fifteen-year-old Wes Ballot is stranded with coldhearted grandparents and holed up in his mother’s old bedroom surrounde
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Hardcover, 350 pages
Published December 1st 2018 by Little A
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Diane I received mine through Kindle First Reads through Amazon Prime. I believe the book was a free selection of the month.

Community Reviews

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4.12  · 
Rating details
 ·  4,748 ratings  ·  545 reviews


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Susanne Strong
Dec 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
3.75* (rounded up)

A Devastatingly Sad Coming of Age Story.


“Winter Loon” left me with a Very Heavy Heart. Wes Ballot is a teenager who has always gotten the short end of the stick. He experiences one sad event after another to the point where I honestly had to wonder at times what the point of the story was. He loses one family member after another and struggles to be strong, and to find himself when all seems lost. Yes, “Winter Loon” is beautifully written and yes the novel includes a lot of emo
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Katie B
This was such a heartbreaking story and one in which you feel so emotionally invested in the main character. Fifteen-year-old Wes Ballot is living with his alcoholic parents in Minnesota when his mother drowns in a lake. His father sends Wes to temporarily live with his grandparents who aren't exactly warm and welcoming. As Wes waits for his father to return, he meets a girl who is also dealing with the death of a parent. This is the story of a boy who will learn long-buried secrets about his fa ...more
Linda
Testing the waters is never accomplished within the safety of the shore.

Susan Bernhard presents a novel imbued with the tragedies of second-hand debris of life. The hand-off, the jilted inheritance, the receiving end of the deadly stick, the heavy baggage left in the wings by those who came before us.

Her main character of Wes Ballot is but fifteen years old. But Wes bears the internal scars of hovering in the shadows for most of his young life observing and fleeing from the images of his alcoho
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Michelle Hoover
Sep 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a beauty of a page-turner, dreamy, disquieting, and uncompromising to the end. Against the tide of the wandering heart, the novel tells us, only love can offer us a place to rest—and only if we let it.
Glenna Pritchett
Five humongous, glowing, golden stars!

Once in a while a debut novel will knock off my socks. This one did, so I’m going to follow this author and wait impatiently for her next one.

I am an amateur at reviewing books, and this one is too good to suffer such an injustice. So I’ll say only that you simply must read it.
Jeannie
I wish I was a writer. I would love to write an excellent review for this book, I loved it so much!
The characters are realistic. Wes was my favorite character and my heart broke for him. The story is heartbreaking and I had tears in my eyes a couple of times.
I can't wait to read more from this author. This book will go on to my favorites shelf and what a beautiful cover!
Highly recommend!
Sophie "Beware Of The Reader"
"I'd come to realize that all my life I'd been sheltered and shaped for the better by women who'd had to fight for every last thing and who'd done their best, even my mother, even Ruby in her way."

For those who follow me for some time, know that this is not my usual genre or type of book.
My main reads are YA and romance.

If this book centers around a teenager of fifteen year old, Wes, I would not call it YA. Nor would I call it romance even if you'll find some love story in it.
Trying to qualif
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Lissa Franz
Aug 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Susan Bernhard's WINTER LOON is a gorgeously lyrical coming of age ballad—a soul reckoning exploration of familial ties and the hard fight to make your life your own. Wes Ballot's childhood ends when he witnesses a tragedy. Forced into the hard, mean life of his grandparents, waiting for his father to rescue him—a drifter whose definition of manhood Wes wrestles with throughout the novel—Wes must confront his mother's secrets. Wes casts about for role models in this tough world and finds it in t ...more
Brittany
4 Stars!!
🌟🌟🌟🌟

“So go, why don’t you? See if I care.” “You don’t mean that,” he said. But I did. I wanted him to leave and to hold onto me. I wanted him to shut the hell up and to tell me I’d done all I could. I wanted his comfort. I got his pain.”

Hauntingly tragic, and a beautiful coming of age story. This was a wonderful debut...about family and sacrifice, Winter Loon reminds us of how great a burden the past can be, the toll it exacts, and the freedom that comes from letting it go.

In this
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Emilie
Jul 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is beautiful. The prose is elegant and, though it took me a moment to become fully immersed in the story, the characters are rich and the setting tangible. It’s a story of loss and finding and wrought with love and comfort. This books wraps around you and I can’t wait for it to be released and shared with the world.
Crystal King
Sep 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literary
Winter Loon is a gorgeous, emotionally wrought, coming-of-age story about a young boy who watches his mother drown and then must endure the aftermath of her death--a father who abandons him, moving in with his abusive grandparents and falling in love with the beautiful Jolene. The novel is heart-wrenching, gritty, and at times troubling, but one thing that you cannot escape is how you will feel about young Wes Ballot as he tries to figure out his new place in the world. This is a brilliant debut ...more
HollySykes
Oct 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Winter Loon" doesn't read like a debut novel. Bernhard writes with incredible beauty that leaves you breathless and shivering. Wes Ballot, after witnessing his mothers death, is shunted through his family to land with his cruel and horrifying grandparents. They are easy to dispose at first until their own horrific and terrible lives come to light. Bernhard explores the bitterness a person can harbor in their lives and how one people let it lash out on others in the world and some limp on, deter ...more
Rachel
Aug 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Stunning. Heartbreaking. Couldn't put it down.
lauren
Dec 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There's some part of me that is always inherently drawn to dysfunctional family dynamics in literature. I'm not sure what that says about me or my familial bonds, perhaps that's a talk with my therapist down the road.. but in this case, I'm glad it brought me to this book.

I went into this one with no expectations, piqued mostly by the beautiful cover design and the short synopsis. But I quickly found myself unable to put this book down. The writing and the storytelling flowed effortlessly, maki
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Phyllis
Dec 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the story of Wes Ballot, a fifteen year old boy who witnesses the death of his mother when she falls through the ice on a Minnesota lake. His father sends him to live with his grandparents and stays in his mother's old childhood bedroom. It is a coming of age story of abuse, dysfunction and heartbreak. It's a well written page turner and I understand a debut novel. Susan Bernhard is a very talented writer.
Karen Kay
I received this from netgalley.com in exchange for a review.

Abandoned by his father after his mother drowns in a frozen Minnesota lake, fifteen-year-old Wes Ballot is stranded with coldhearted grandparents and holed up in his mother’s old bedroom surrounded by her remnants and memories.

An okay read.
3.25 stars
Lisa-Books Smiles
Dec 02, 2018 rated it liked it
3.25 stars
Debi Hawkes
Nov 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"I let my eyes rest again on the craggy spot, dark as spilled ink and barely out of my reach, where the ice had given way and the hungry lake had swallowed my mother whole."

A truly wonderful novel. Thoughtful and thought provoking.

Wes, the main character was so completely realized, my heart broke for him, over and over.

My running thought while reading ... Such broken people, striving so hard to break the cycle....

"Sometimes it's easier to build something new than it is to fix something broken."

T
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Nicole G.
Of the Amazon First Reads I've picked up over time, only one or two have been really fantastic. This book blew those away.

I can't believe this is the author's first novel. I expect we'll be hearing more from her.

At bottom, this is a coming of age story, with family tragedy, and this could be ham-handed with a less capable writer. This was gorgeous in its prose, and really made me feel for the characters. As I read the last words, I snapped my Kindle cover closed and just . . . sat for a few minu
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Suanne
Wes Ballott watches his mother die in a frozen lake in Minnesota. After that horror, he is abandoned by his father and forced to live with his chain-smoking, alcoholic bitter maternal grandparents who kept his mother’s room unchanged for years—hiding truths better left buried—but can’t open their hearts to her son.

Everyone Wes comes into contact is the worst possible role model for a parentless child, yet somehow he finds just the right person to help him heal and move on. Despite the stark emp
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Holly Robinson
Dec 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's tempting to read only the books we're comfortable with, or those that stay within the lanes of familiar genres. Winter Loon is not a comfortable or easy read, in that the plight of teenager Wes Ballot is so harsh. With our current news headlines, you even might wonder why you'd want to dive into a book that seems as chilly and unforgiving as the Minnesota lake that takes the life of Wes's mother at the start of the novel. But do it! The writing in this novel is poignant, lyrical, cinematic, ...more
Michele Ferrari
Oct 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A haunting coming of age story about a boy who struggles to move past the pain and tragedies of his parents and grandparents to become his own person. Wes is a character who you grow to love and want to protect as he confronts the challenges of adolescence in the shadow of his mother's death and violent life. Susan Bernhard is one of those rare writers who is able to use language in completely unique and lyrical ways while keeping the story in the voice of her young narrator. A complex story bea ...more
Kathy
Sep 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Compelling, beautiful, coming of age novel. I was so moved by Wes's story.
Ginger
Nov 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Reality

It has always amazed me how strangers can treat you better than blood, but for their loss, we do become better people.
Polina Lu
Nov 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great story. Kind of hard to read some parts because of the darkness within. Love the beauty of Montana, too!
Linda Knight
Nov 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
thin ice awaits those who seek happiness

I read the caption on this book, selected it and then spent an entire day reading it! It kept me entranced and so wanting to go to the last chapter...but I held out and was rewarded for it.
Katherine Sherbrooke
Oct 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
If you love the intersection of gorgeous writing, characters you won't forget and a story that will keep the pages turning, this book is for you. You will be transported from the moment you start reading-- to a world that is likely quite different from your own, and yet resonates with all the most important questions about love & loss, who we belong to and when we choose to let go. Absolutely loved it!!
Patricia Caldwell
A beautiful emotional read

I haven’t been touched by a book like this in a long time.
Beautiful, heartbreaking, extremely well written.
If you’re looking for a great read, chose this book
A literary jewel
Kathleen
I would really like to give this 3.5 stars. This is a really beautifully written story and it's a really sad story. There is a lovely young man who pulls you through this story and all its sadness, that at times I found a bit hard to believe his rigor to endure without some kind of acting out or breakdown. But in the end, this is a beautiful story about love; real true love and those are the best stories to read. Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing with an advanced copy to read i ...more
Jan
Nov 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A beautifully written book about a young boy seemingly abandoned by everyone around him but yet who strives to become someone dependable and others can count on him.
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“Sometimes it’s easier to build something new than it is to fix something broken.” 5 likes
“I think about that, about the boy I was and my drowned mother. What did I know, really? Her love for me was deep and frantic. And the desperation of her dying the way she did was keen, sharp like the blade she left behind, like the loon’s black bill. I was not able to put my thoughts together right then, not for years, that the ice had closed in on my mother long before she went out onto Bright Lake.” 2 likes
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