Winter in Anna by Reed Karaim
Winter in Anna takes place in a small Midwestern town and follows Eric’s life as the newspaper’s sports journalist and his relationships with the fellow townspeople, in particular a woman named Anna. Anna is an enigma from the start, quiet and introverted, and we get to know her through Eric’s eyes. The novel begins with the news of her death and we see through Eric’s perspective as he reflects on her life and their friendship.
I have mixed feelings about this novel. I enjoyed Eric’s personal journey, but on the other hand I thought that Anna’s characterization reminded me of the manic pixi dream girl complex. The story explores the nature of friendship: how much do we truly know someone. Eric reflects that “you have to know something before you can see how much you really have to learn” as he delves into his memories and reexamines his relationship with Anna. Blinded by our youth, we fail to see the problems and intricacies of other’s lives, and Eric is no different.
The element I disliked the most was Anna’s characterization, however there seems to be a valid and meaningful reason why this is so. Eric’s visions of Anna’s life involves a high level of speculation and he spends a lot of time imagining her life or motivations. Additionally, Anna and her life serves a purpose for Eric. Their friendship is pivotal for Eric and so her life and character becomes somewhat of a plot device. We also only see Anna’s life from Eric’s perspective, so she never has the opportunity to tell her own story. However, we all have people who have come into our lives for a moment, yet changed it completely and we all imagine other’s lives. So the lack of Anna’s perspective serves a narrative purpose, as the grand vehicle for an essential theme in the book: the nature of relationships. We can only hazard guesses at other’s lives and will never know the truth of their decisions or their lives. Even so, I was slightly disappointed by the lack of Anna’s agency and ability to tell her own story.
The entire plot unravels Anna’s life and we move steadily toward her death. By reading we can only learn more about who Anna was and why she died, while simultaneously witnessing Eric’s evolution. There are some truly beautiful passages in this book as it deals with domestic abuse, the loss of family, and the struggle of the printed word. Yet Karaim’s story highlights the struggle we have knowing when it is time to leave and grow, as well as the challenges we have living everyday dealing with the undercurrent of life. It asks us, how do we value our life? How do we know if we have lived a good life? You can buy a copy here.
What about you, what do you consider a good life? Comment below what you would need to consider your life well lived?
Cover image from Netgalley.
Disclaimer: I received this copy in exchange for an honest review from Netgalley.
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