What is your motivation behind A SILVER WILLOW BY THE SHORE? Why did you want to write it?
I have had a decades-long fascination with the former Soviet Union and their rich, layered history. As a Russian minor in college, I spent a semester in Ukraine studying and traveling, and I realized that there are a world of stories to be told from that region. Fast forward twenty years, and after the release of my award-winning debut novel, Like a River From Its Course, set in World War II Soviet Ukraine, I began combing through books for the next story that I felt needed to be told. . .
“Stuart’s prose pulled me right in, and I quickly became invested in the three women in this family who are hurting and longing for acceptance in their own ways. The Russian history and way of life were captivating, and the secondary characters (James and Viktor) enrich this story further.”
I know when someone’s holding a secret. There’s a certain nuance that cannot be fully disguised when one is harboring hidden news.
“Oh, my, this book! This story of three generations of women gripped me right from the beginning. Elizaveta, Nina, and Annie are mother, daughter, and granddaughter all living under the same roof, but as the story begins, they couldn’t be farther apart. Each woman carries a secret, and it’s in the revealing of these secrets that they find healing. . . . Elizaveta, Nina, and Annie worked their way into my heart, and this is a story that will stick with me.”
“Thought-provoking and heart-rending, A Silver Willow by the Shore is a book that will pull you in and leave you feeling better for it. I don’t give out five-star reviews lightly. . . . Kelli Stuart has impressed me with her masterful storytelling and gift of character. You will feel both happiness and heartache with these characters as they live and relive their journeys. Here is a book that dares to question what’s truly important, to push beyond our fears and hatred and not only forgive others but ourselves.”
“It’s okay, Ninochka,” her mother would answer. “You simply have to think of warm things, and you will be warm. Quick, let’s think of warm things together.” And they’d take turns listing all the warm things they could think of: Fire, borsch, a summer night, a cup of hot chai. They’d make their list as the line crawled along, and somehow it had worked—Nina had felt warm.
“If you like a good historical fiction type read then this is the book for you! . . . A great read that I highly recommend.”
“Wow! What an incredible story from a gifted author. An emotional read, the story takes you into the lives of three women who should have a strong connection through family ties, but find themselves isolated from each other, struggling to find an identity amidst the secrets kept by each generation. A thoughtful and poignant book, I had to force myself to slow down in its reading. It is a book to be savored, but I just could not put it down!”
Toska. It was an untranslatable word—a word that could hardly be conveyed in the English language. Toska communicated anguish. It was a soul-crushing heartache that couldn’t be quelled. . .
“You will be immersed in this story as you walk along with these women on their journey to freedom from shame and guilt. This is a heart tugging bittersweet novel.”
“Wow! A Silver Willow by the Shore blew me away. . . . I would give A Silver Willow by the Shore one hundred stars if I could. It is being placed among my favorite reads of the year.”
“To me, this is a very powerful book. . . . These histories and these stories intertwine to weave a tragically beautiful story that does involve love and loss, but also some redemption and second chances in life. I relished every single page.”
“A Silver Willow by the Shore begs to be read slowly and savored, although I found it hard to put down as I watched everything unfold. This poignant, bittersweet story will be enjoyed by all who enjoy relational, character-driven stories. A “best of the best” read for me with the highest of recommendations.”
Walking to the large window that overlooks the city, Nina takes in the lights. She focuses in on her reflection in the window. She’s older now than she was then. Her face is more drawn, eyelids a little heavier. Gone is the innocence of that young girl who came to America . . .
“As the year draws to a close, I can honestly say Silver Willow by the Shore is one of my favorite reads from 2019. . . . This book was quite unique, as it’s an engaging multi-generational tale told via three POVs: Annie, her mother Nina, and her grandmother Elizaveta. They’re equally well-developed, and easy to root for and invest in.”
I wake with a start and immediately pull the covers up to my chin. I heard a cry. Who was it? There is a knocking sound above me. My eyes shift up and down, left and right, trying to discern what is causing the sound. I hear muffled voices, and I shut my eyes tight, then open them back up. The small night- light in my room casts shadows across the walls, and suddenly I am a child again hovering under the sheets of our small home in Ukraine. The fire in the hearth dances across the dark walls, as I lay warmed from underneath by the oven that mama keeps lit. Dima and Tanya lay beside me on our little bed, and I hear Dima’s breathing grow unsteady.
Another bump outside our door and my eyes shift across the wooden room, a knot growing in my stomach. I take in all the sights, stitched together in my memory like one of Mama’s blankets, and I begin picking at them, unraveling to this particular moment. I’m frightened, and I whimper softly.
“Shh, dochinka,” Mama whispers in my ear. Her voice sends a shiver down my spine. “Don’t move. Don’t make a sound.” She glances behind her, then pulls up the small icon of Saint Maria holding the Christ child and slips it under my pillow. “You will keep this safe for us,” she says. “Keep your head down no matter what happens.”
“I was blown away by this book! How amazing is it that three generations of women who have kept secrets forever changing future generations of women to come. . . . This book is so powerful and I think I will add it to my 2019 list of reads on my blog that is coming up.
I enjoyed this book so much! I strongly recommend it!”
“My first thought when reading the last few lines of A Silver Willow By The Shore was. “Wow. This is one touching story.” And I can’t think of any other way to say it. This book really left me thinking about my own family, about my wonderful mother and my many sisters, and how they are all just so special to me, and how important family is.”
“Don’t be silly, Nina,” her mother would chide. “What would we do with a dog? I am working all day, and you are in school. And besides, then we would have to stand in another line just to get food for the dog. I will not stand in more lines.”
“What a wonderful cast of characters with a unique set of storylines! . . . Kelli Stuart is a brilliant storyteller. It is evident that she has researched Russian history and customs, breathing life and authenticity into her characters with confidence and elegance.
I love, LOVE, LOVE this story!”
Nina opens her eyes and stares a moment longer at the picture, crossing her arms tight over her chest. Her childhood memories are comprised of standing next to her mother in lines. She turns to look at Elizaveta who sleeps soundly in her chair in the corner, a book in her lap. Her chin rests on her chest and she breathes slowly.
“A Silver Willow by the Shore was so well-written, and it is obvious that the author researched Russian history in depth. Elizaveta, Nina, and Annie have so much depth to their characters that I could swear if I drove down to Tennessee, I could visit them.
A Silver Willow by the Shore is a book that will stick with you long after you’ve read the end. I loved it and think you will too.”
I can’t speak of the memories, of course. Not to anyone. The key to keeping a secret is to replace the hidden news with something different, and then to make yourself believe the new story. Roll the facts through your head until they’ve muddled the reality of events. This is what I’ve done. What I’ve tried to do. This is what she’ll try to do.
Keep it hidden. Share as little as possible. She and I are not so different after all. We’re both rewriting our own history.
“A beautiful story, perfect for fans of mother-daughter relationships and well-told history, A Silver Willow By the Shore is one book I am sure will stick with me for years to come. I highly recommend reading it.”
Nina wraps her arms around her trembling daughter and pulls her in tight. Annie presses her face into Nina’s neck, and Nina closes her eyes remembering the way Annie would crawl into her lap as a child and fall asleep in this same position.
Putting her arm around Annie’s shoulders, Nina walks her to the couch and sits down with her. Annie lays her head in her mother’s lap and Nina strokes her hair. “Ssshhh,” she croons. Annie’s shoulders heave as she releases months of pent up emotion and heartache. Nina closes her eyes and rocks gently back and forth as another memory slides over her.
By Kelli Stuart
Adult Historical, Contemporary, Time-Slip
Paperback & ebook, 380 Pages
October 15th 2019 by Fine Print Writing Press
How do you face the future if you don’t know your own past?
When an unexpected pregnancy changes her dreams, seventeen-year-old Annie tries to keep it from her mother and her grandmother. But secrets have a way of coming out. In a household of strong women, the arrival of a new life sets off a spiral of truth that reveals a past full of whispers and lies—a past that existed in another world under the heavy hand of Soviet oppression. This history has dictated the circumstances of the present, but hope, redemption, and forgiveness will grow in the rocky places of these generational differences.
A Silver Willow by the Shore is the story of the unshakeable love between mothers and daughters and of the impact that past decisions can have on present day circumstances. This novel weaves together the stories of generations of women, from the gulags of 1930’s Siberia, to the quiet oppression of 1980’s Soviet Moscow, to present day Tennessee. It is an unforgettable narrative of the treachery of secrets, and of the light that unites the heart of a family.
Kelli is a wife, mother, novelist, and the driver of a smoking’ hot minivan. When she isn’t wrangling her five children, she can be found tapping away at the keyboard. Kelli is the award winning author of Like a River From Its Course, her debut novel which won the ACFW Carol Award for Best Historical and was nominated for two Christy Awards. Kelli is also the co-author of Life Creative: Inspiration for Today’s Renaissance Mom with Wendy Speake. You can find more information on her life and writings at http://www.kellistuart.com.
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