ildflowers from Winter is a well-crafted novel that delivers a strong message of redemption and resonates with emotion.

The story focuses on Bethany Quinn, who when the book begins is a successful architect living in Chicago.  Her life is very different from her childhood in Peaks, Iowa, a small, rural town.  Through a series of events involving her family and former best friend, Bethany returns to Peaks.  She makes it clear to everyone that she does not want to be there, and she is especially negative when dealing with Evan, her grandfather’s farmhand.  For Bethany, Peaks is a place of bad memories and awkward relationships.  But her stay there is temporary — or is it?

Throughout the novel, Bethany struggles to identify what kind of person she wants to be.  Does she want a new job with a big firm in an urban area?  Is she going to sell the farm against Evan’s wishes?  Can she start over with Robin, her former best friend?

While in Peaks, Bethany is disappointed to learn that her mother is friends with a preacher whom Bethany detests.  It takes a while to learn the reason behind Bethany’s feelings, but the delay isn’t annoying and the suspense moves the story along.  Bethany’s introspection is not tiresome because her struggles and indecisiveness are realistic and interesting to read about.  Ganshert is skillful at describing how Bethany’s emotions thaw over time.

As Bethany is dealing with her issues, her childhood friend, Robin, endures heart-breaking tragedy.  Ganshert does a masterful job of portraying Robin’s grief.

During some of their conversations, Evan and Bethany discuss God.  Evan has a strong faith in God’s love whereas Bethany has believed for years that God is intent on punishment.  Given her feelings, Bethany has no desire for a relationship with God – or with Evan.  The religious discussions are fleshed out with authentic dialogue and good descriptions of the characters’ inner thinking.

Overall, Wildflowers from Winter is well-written with only a few instances of questionable word choice.  (For example, people “march” across fields and goose bumps “march” up someone’s arm.)  More importantly, the characters are well-developed and realistic.  The love story between Bethany and Evan is lovely, even though I didn’t completely understand the development of Evan’s feelings, and the scenes between Bethany and Robin are rewarding as they attempt to repair their broken relationship.  The changes between present and past feel natural and are spaced well.

The book’s conclusion is heartfelt without resorting to sappiness.  Because of the excellent character development and story progression, the book’s ending is satisfying and meaningful.  It’s a testament to Ganshert’s talent that the story is so enjoyable, even with a number of sad narrative elements.  As the title suggests, even in darkness there is a glimmer of hope.

This is Ganshert’s first novel and it’s an impressive debut.  I hope there is a sequel.