In Mind of Winter we spend Christmas day with Holly and her 15 year old daughter Tatiana. Tatiana, or Tatty, was adopted as a baby from Serbia, and Holly wakes up at the start of this book with the obsessive thought that “something had followed them home for Russia.” I hope you like that sentence, it will be repeated about a thousand times. Initially, I attempted listening to the audiobook format of this book, but the narrator put a strange emphasis on the ending of the word “Russia,” so as it turns out… I hated that sentence. So much so that I had to abandon the audio format and pick up a hard copy from my library.
The entirety of the novel spans a single day, Christmas day, on which a blizzard leaves Holly and her moody teenage daughter home alone- her husband having trouble retrieving his parents from the airport, and their usual holiday guests unable to make it over in the unusually fast and heavy snow storm.
There are no chapter divisions in the novel, just page breaks marking where the stream of conscious like narrative returns to the present day before veering off again into the past- Holly’s own as well as the experience of traveling with her husband to adopt their daughter. In my opinion too much time is spent on these reflective periods. The story would have worked wonderfully as a short story or novella. Instead, the 15 hour plot ends up filling nearly 300 pages, many of which are, in all honesty, skimmable.
The story aims for inclusion in the horror genre with Holly noticing something unusual happening to her daughter; the girl’s mood becoming darker and darker, her behavior more and more bizarre as the day progresses. However, the overall atmosphere fails to deliver that spooky creep factor associated with horror. The tension stems less from the sinister transformation in the teen, and more from the revelations that Holly is a terrible mother with a history of medical anxiety.
The reveal of the novel is delightfully twisted, and the vague ending is near perfection. But the tedious route to get to that dark destination impeded my overall ability to enjoy the novel. I gave it 2 out of 5 stars on Storygraph, and ticked content warnings for Suicide, Terminal illness, Cancer, Death, Medical content, Medical trauma, Child death, and Chronic illness, Addiction, Alcoholism, Animal death, and Infertility.