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Top Shelf: Winter Street

Winter Street, by Elin Hilderbrand, is the story of a New England family at Christmastime.

The patriarch, Kelley Quinn, finds that his marriage to Mitzi is falling part, his ex-wife Margaret (and oldest childrens' mother) is a high-powered, workaholic news broadcaster in NYC, and their adult children cope with personal drama of their own. The central setting, the Winter Street Inn, is a beautiful, cozy, magical place which keeps them close and connected--especially since several of them live there together.

I found myself immediately identifying with Ava, a music teacher and the only daughter in the Quinn family. Her brother Kevin is struggling with a secret, and her oldest brother Patrick is having a very rough few put it mildly. Kelley, who owns the Inn, is also terribly worried about his youngest son, Bart, who is deployed to Iraq and has been unreachable for several days.

Each chapter is told from a different character's perspective. These first-person accounts invoke both sympathy and aggravation!

The first few chapters feel like a Hallmark movie. As the darker elements begin to creep into the storyline, all but the setting eliminates this syrupy vibe. I really enjoyed the abundance of holiday scenery, and the high emotions of the season lend themselves to more complex character building.

Don't expect much resolution at the end; it's just the first in a series! And, since I couldn't stop reading, I'll give you just a taste of the rest.

The second installment gets its name from the ticketed stroll through Nantucket which takes place during the holidays. It's now a year later, and the book begins with Mitzi's point of view. Kelley's ex-wife is struggling, and much of book one's questions are answered fairly quickly.

This book has a pretty strong theme of hope running through it. Margaret's character deepens, and her partner Drake is added to the set of first-person narrators. Ongoing drama between couples causes both fractures and reconciliations.

If you enjoy Ava's character, you'll enjoy her fresh perspective in this third installment.

There are several serious themes in this volume, but I just can't give all of the surprises away! Be prepared for some very somber moments, some resolutions and some significant character growth. The Quinn children are now all full-fledged adults with challenges aplenty.

There is one final new first person narrator introduced in this book. Closure, peace and acceptance abound.

Overall, this is a quiet book on many levels. The quiet seriousness of the topics and the literal quietness of the Winter Street Inn both contribute to Hildebrand's closure for the Quinn Family.

I'd encourage reading these during this holiday season. The Inn and the Nantucket setting, along with detours into the Big Apple, are all dreamy.

I'll note that there may be triggering issues for some to consider. When this many characters are part of a story, complex issues are inevitable. If you are currently struggling with divorce, loss, addiction or PTSD--know that they are woven throughout this series. However, I found it to be thoughtfully done, and reflective of the struggles that are all around us. It's a gentle reminder that a lot of people are going through a lot, and this time of year can certainly exacerbate these challenges.

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