Book Review: Winter Street
By: Elin Hilderbrand
Published By: Little, Brown and Company
Publication Date: October 2014
Page Count: 256
Source: Purchased by Reviewer
Audience: Adult - Contemporary
This rounds out my holiday reading for this Christmas season. It was an interesting choice as it is not your typical feel good, holiday spirit novel. In many ways, the Quinn family is not a fictional family I would want to join. Each member of the family has a set of issues they are working through over a three day time period. I don't envy any of them, but in spite of the disarray of their lives, I found them to be oddly compelling. Sometimes a little Christmas dysfunction is just what a reader needs.
The family patriarch, Kelley, opens the novel by stressing about his finances and the state of the Winter Street Inn. There are no guests for the holidays this year and Kelley is unsure of how he is going to keep the inn afloat. As financial stress swirls in his brain, he opens the door to a guest room to find his wife, Mitzi, in a compromising position with George, the man who comes to the inn each Christmas to play Santa for the annual Christmas party. Kelley is reeling after what he's seen and finding out that Mitzi has been carrying on the affair with George since he started as Santa around twelve years prior. Kelley's life seems to be falling apart all around him. To make matters worse, his youngest son, Bart, the only child he has with Mitzi, is in Afghanistan serving with the Marines; nobody has heard from Bart and worry has set deep into the family's bones. Mitzi's departure sends Kelley into a spiral full of self doubt and drinking.
In addition to Kelley's issues, each of his children (aside from Bart) and his ex-wife, Margaret, are also having their own set of issues. Patrick is about to end up with a jail sentence for insider trading. Kevin is working a dead end job at a local bar and has recently found out that his girlfriend is expecting a baby. Lastly, Ava, the lone daughter, is stuck in a dead end romance while an ardent admirer continues to vie for her affections.
As the novel progresses, each member of the original Quinn clan, tells a portion of the story. At first, I was overwhelmed by the amount of characters. I worried I would have trouble keeping track of who was who and whose issues were taking center stage in each chapter, but I soon settled into the narration style. I enjoyed getting into the mind of each Quinn to view their situation from their perspective.
My biggest complaint with this one was the length and the ending. This novel focused heavily on character development and is told in a series of connected vignettes. While I enjoyed these glimpses into the lives of the family members, I wanted to know more about them on a deeper level. I feel like Kevin truly gets the shaft in this department, but that could be because his situation is hopeful while some of the others are facing bleak circumstances. The ending was unsatisfying as it leaves so many loose ends. Yes, there is a sequel, but I do like some resolution in a novel. This one ends on an abrupt note that had me wishing I had time to squeeze in the next novel right now to find out what was going to happen next.
All in all, I enjoyed Winter Street and my first experience reading Elin Hilderbrand. I will certainly be following up with Quinn family as soon as I can work in the next novel. I'd recommend this one if you're looking for a non-traditional Christmas story with unconventional family dynamics.
One Last Gripe: That last chapter - BRUTAL!
Favorite Thing About This Book: In spite of their issues, I loved watching the Quinn clan rally around one another.
First Sentence: He thinks nothing of walking into room 10 without knocking.
Favorite Character: Ava
Least Favorite Character: Mitzi
In bestseller Elin Hilderbrand's first Christmas novel, a family gathers on Nantucket for a holiday filled with surprises.
Kelley Quinn is the owner of Nantucket's Winter Street Inn and the proud father of four, all of them grown and living in varying states of disarray. Patrick, the eldest, is a hedge fund manager with a guilty conscience. Kevin, a bartender, is secretly sleeping with a French housekeeper named Isabelle. Ava, a school teacher, is finally dating the perfect guy but can't get him to commit. And Bart, the youngest and only child of Kelley's second marriage to Mitzi, has recently shocked everyone by joining the Marines.
As Christmas approaches, Kelley is looking forward to getting the family together for some quality time at the inn. But when he walks in on Mitzi kissing Santa Claus (or the guy who's playing Santa at the inn's annual party), utter chaos descends. With the three older children each reeling in their own dramas and Bart unreachable in Afghanistan, it might be up to Kelley's ex-wife, nightly news anchor Margaret Quinn, to save Christmas at the Winter Street Inn.
Before the mulled cider is gone, the delightfully dysfunctional Quinn family will survive a love triangle, an unplanned pregnancy, a federal crime, a small house fire, many shots of whiskey, and endless rounds of Christmas caroling, in this heart-warming novel about coming home for the holidays.