A pathway is covered in snow at twilight. Out of focus, people are walking away from the camera.

Book Review: Five Winters

I didn’t get to read as many holiday books as I wanted before Christmas came along, so when I noticed that Five Winters by Kitty Johnson was on the Amazon First reads list for December, I was hoping it could pull the holiday feeling into January for me without being strictly a Christmas storyline. It felt different in that it wasn’t a romantic-comedy storyline but more about a woman’s journey over five years—something I could sink my teeth into a little.

Ever since Beth Bailey was a girl, she’s been in love with her best friend’s older brother, Mark. She’s continued to hold out hope that maybe, someday, he’ll love her back. But now Beth is thirty-five years old, and on the day of Mark’s wedding to another woman, she finally accepts the wake-up call she needs to move on.

Beth’s dream of marrying her first love may be over, but her other biggest desire is still within reach: becoming a mother. Having lost her own parents very young, there’s nothing Beth wants more in life, and nothing she’ll stop at to make her wish come true.

Over the course of five years, and with unexpected twists along the way, Beth will come to startling realizations about family, friendship, the meaning of love, and most importantly, herself on the winding path to happiness and, she hopes, to motherhood.

TW: Infertility, Death of Parents

I never know what to expect with Amazon First reads—sometimes they’re really not great, and other times it’s a diamond in the rough. This one falls somewhere in the middle because a few areas were problematic for me, but other parts that I really loved. This is a spoiler-filled review (no way around it) so proceed with caution.

What didn’t work for me

The Mark-Beth dynamic: I struggled to connect with Mark and Beth as a potential couple. They had some pretty natural moments when they were hanging out with Rosie and the family, but when they were together, just the two of them, everything felt stilted. Maybe it’s because we were getting everything from Beth’s POV, and she obviously felt a certain type of way about him, but Mark didn’t seem like he was all that great.

The adoption storyline: Infertility is a challenging subject to cover appropriately. Beth’s whole identity for a few years became adopting a child, and we caught a tiny glimpse into the process, but suddenly, when she found out she couldn’t have a baby/infant, she switched gears into looking for Tinder dates to get pregnant. Someone who wants to be a mother wants a child, baby or not. And for her to flip-flop like that (and again later in the story) didn’t seem genuine and didn’t do the community justice, in my opinion.

What I liked

The format: It’s been a while since I’ve read a story like this, where the plot takes place at a particular time annually, and I forget how much I enjoy it. It helps move the plot along nicely, and you only get the information you need to fill in the blanks. It especially works to make a book seem more holiday focused when the plot really isn’t all that Christmassy.

The Grouses: Despite what I said above about Mark (romantically speaking), I really enjoyed the dynamic between Sylvia, Richard, Mark, Rosie and Beth. They seemed like a real family that actually supported each other—even when they made decisions not everyone agreed with—and loved each other no matter what. It was very nice to read.

The ultimate message: There are a few messages in this book, but I think at its core, it was saying that you shouldn’t have to change who you are to find love. And that is often a point that is missed in romance novels.

All in all, I enjoyed this book, but if you are triggered by infertility or parents dying, I would avoid Five Winters. It’s a great format to sink your teeth into, and the cover is gorgeous.


“It is a truth universally acknowledged that if you have a crush on your best friend’s brother when you’re eleven—flat chested and too shy to say boo to a goose—he is always going to see you that way.” —Kitty Johnson, Five Winters


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s