Winter Loon
A haunting debut novel about family and sacrifice, Winter Loon reminds us of how great a burden the past can be, the toll it exacts, and the freedom that comes from letting it go.Abandoned by his father after his mother drowns in a frozen Minnesota lake, fifteen-year-old Wes Ballot is stranded with coldhearted grandparents and holed up in his mother’s old bedroom surrounded by her remnants and memories. As the wait for his father stretches unforgivably into months, a local girl, whose own mother died a brutal death, captures his heart and imagination, giving Wes fresh air to breathe in the suffocating small town.When buried truths come to light in the spring thaw, wounds are exposed and violence erupts, forcing Wes to embark on a search for his missing father, the truth about his mother, and a future he must claim for himself—a quest that begins back at that frozen lake.A powerful, page-turning coming-of-age story, Winter Loon captures the resilience of a boy determined to become a worthy man by confronting family demons, clawing his way out of the darkness, and forging a life from the shambles of a broken past.

Winter Loon Details

TitleWinter Loon
Author
ReleaseDec 1st, 2018
PublisherBrilliance Audio
ISBN-139781978631380
Rating
GenreFiction, Young Adult, Literary Fiction

Winter Loon Review

  • Katie B
    January 1, 1970
    This was such a heartbreaking story and one in which you feel so emotionally invested in the main character. Fifteen-year-old Wes Ballot is living with his alcoholic parents in Minnesota when his mother drowns in a lake. His father sends Wes to temporarily live with his grandparents who aren't exactly warm and welcoming. As Wes waits for his father to return, he meets a girl who is also dealing with the death of a parent. This is the story of a boy who will learn long-buried secrets about his fa This was such a heartbreaking story and one in which you feel so emotionally invested in the main character. Fifteen-year-old Wes Ballot is living with his alcoholic parents in Minnesota when his mother drowns in a lake. His father sends Wes to temporarily live with his grandparents who aren't exactly warm and welcoming. As Wes waits for his father to return, he meets a girl who is also dealing with the death of a parent. This is the story of a boy who will learn long-buried secrets about his family history and will have to forge his own path in life. Even though this book has such a sadness to it, in some ways it is uplifting as you watch this young boy deal with the crappy hand he was dealt and slowly develop into a man. While you are reading you just feel protective of him and want to shelter him from any pain or hurt. Haunting is a good word to describe the story as so many things about his family's past that he has no control over are affecting him in the present. And that's why Wes is a character to root for because in a way he's having to fight other people's demons and how could you not want him to find happiness? Definitely recommend as a good coming of age story. This is one of the better Amazon Kindle First selections I have picked in recent months.
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  • Michelle Hoover
    January 1, 1970
    This is a beauty of a page-turner, dreamy, disquieting, and uncompromising to the end. Against the tide of the wandering heart, the novel tells us, only love can offer us a place to rest—and only if we let it.
  • Lissa Franz
    January 1, 1970
    Susan Bernhard's WINTER LOON is a gorgeously lyrical coming of age ballad—a soul reckoning exploration of familial ties and the hard fight to make your life your own. Wes Ballot's childhood ends when he witnesses a tragedy. Forced into the hard, mean life of his grandparents, waiting for his father to rescue him—a drifter whose definition of manhood Wes wrestles with throughout the novel—Wes must confront his mother's secrets. Wes casts about for role models in this tough world and finds it in t Susan Bernhard's WINTER LOON is a gorgeously lyrical coming of age ballad—a soul reckoning exploration of familial ties and the hard fight to make your life your own. Wes Ballot's childhood ends when he witnesses a tragedy. Forced into the hard, mean life of his grandparents, waiting for his father to rescue him—a drifter whose definition of manhood Wes wrestles with throughout the novel—Wes must confront his mother's secrets. Wes casts about for role models in this tough world and finds it in the Hightowers, a family he loves nearly as much as their adopted daughter Jolene. It is here he learns love and loyalty. Bernhard is deft with the trials and alienation of loneliness. She writes beautifully of hardscrabble lives, and with perfect pitch about adolescence, resilience in the face of tragedy, and what it means to transcend a legacy and emerge with an honest, fearless, independent life. A soaring and luminous debut.
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  • Glenna Pritchett
    January 1, 1970
    Five humongous, glowing, golden stars! Once in a while a debut novel will knock off my socks. This one did, so I’m going to follow this author and wait impatiently for her next one.I am a rank amateur at reviewing books, and this one is too good to suffer such an injustice. So I’ll say only that you simply must read it.
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  • Emilie
    January 1, 1970
    This book is beautiful. The prose is elegant and, though it took me a moment to become fully immersed in the story, the characters are rich and the setting tangible. It’s a story of loss and finding and wrought with love and comfort. This books wraps around you and I can’t wait for it to be released and shared with the world.
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  • Crystal King
    January 1, 1970
    Winter Loon is a gorgeous, emotionally wrought, coming-of-age story about a young boy who watches his mother drown and then must endure the aftermath of her death--a father who abandons him, moving in with his abusive grandparents and falling in love with the beautiful Jolene. The novel is heart-wrenching, gritty, and at times troubling, but one thing that you cannot escape is how you will feel about young Wes Ballot as he tries to figure out his new place in the world. This is a brilliant debut Winter Loon is a gorgeous, emotionally wrought, coming-of-age story about a young boy who watches his mother drown and then must endure the aftermath of her death--a father who abandons him, moving in with his abusive grandparents and falling in love with the beautiful Jolene. The novel is heart-wrenching, gritty, and at times troubling, but one thing that you cannot escape is how you will feel about young Wes Ballot as he tries to figure out his new place in the world. This is a brilliant debut and I can't wait to see where Bernhard will take her readers next.
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  • Rachel
    January 1, 1970
    Stunning. Heartbreaking. Couldn't put it down.
  • Michele Ferrari
    January 1, 1970
    A haunting coming of age story about a boy who struggles to move past the pain and tragedies of his parents and grandparents to become his own person. Wes is a character who you grow to love and want to protect as he confronts the challenges of adolescence in the shadow of his mother's death and violent life. Susan Bernhard is one of those rare writers who is able to use language in completely unique and lyrical ways while keeping the story in the voice of her young narrator. A complex story bea A haunting coming of age story about a boy who struggles to move past the pain and tragedies of his parents and grandparents to become his own person. Wes is a character who you grow to love and want to protect as he confronts the challenges of adolescence in the shadow of his mother's death and violent life. Susan Bernhard is one of those rare writers who is able to use language in completely unique and lyrical ways while keeping the story in the voice of her young narrator. A complex story beautifully told.
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  • HollySykes
    January 1, 1970
    "Winter Loon" doesn't read like a debut novel. Bernhard writes with incredible beauty that leaves you breathless and shivering. Wes Ballot, after witnessing his mothers death, is shunted through his family to land with his cruel and horrifying grandparents. They are easy to dispose at first until their own horrific and terrible lives come to light. Bernhard explores the bitterness a person can harbor in their lives and how one people let it lash out on others in the world and some limp on, deter "Winter Loon" doesn't read like a debut novel. Bernhard writes with incredible beauty that leaves you breathless and shivering. Wes Ballot, after witnessing his mothers death, is shunted through his family to land with his cruel and horrifying grandparents. They are easy to dispose at first until their own horrific and terrible lives come to light. Bernhard explores the bitterness a person can harbor in their lives and how one people let it lash out on others in the world and some limp on, determined not to become the people that wounded them. In the age of noisy adventure novels and sweeping political metaphors, Bernhard reminds us that sometimes, sometimes people's lives are just quietly shitty, with no conspiracy or reason, without any real institution that can be boycotted or revolution that can be founded. Wes' story stands as a testament to making a choice between allowing the bitter cycles of family and history swallow you and fighting the current, refusing to let them drag you in with them. Throughout the novel, I kept hoping for good things to come to Wes, for his life to have beautiful moments of stillness and rest despite the constant unearthing of painful memories and truths that revealed not only the motives of those he was with, but also of those he'd lost. "Winter Loon" is a novel of untangling and of deciding when to reach for the scissors. Sometimes it hurts to be reminded that someday, everything will be ok. I loved reading this book and winning quiet battles in the depth of winter in Minnesota.
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  • Kathy
    January 1, 1970
    Compelling, beautiful, coming of age novel. I was so moved by Wes's story.
  • Katherine Sherbrooke
    January 1, 1970
    If you love the intersection of gorgeous writing, characters you won't forget and a story that will keep the pages turning, this book is for you. You will be transported from the moment you start reading-- to a world that is likely quite different from your own, and yet resonates with all the most important questions about love & loss, who we belong to and when we choose to let go. Absolutely loved it!!
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  • Suanne
    January 1, 1970
    Wes Ballott watches his mother die in a frozen lake in Minnesota. After that horror, he is abandoned by his father and forced to live with his chain-smoking, alcoholic bitter maternal grandparents who kept his mother’s room unchanged for years—hiding truths better left buried—but can’t open their hearts to her son. Everyone Wes comes into contact is the worst possible role model for a parentless child, yet somehow he finds just the right person to help him heal and move on. Despite the stark emp Wes Ballott watches his mother die in a frozen lake in Minnesota. After that horror, he is abandoned by his father and forced to live with his chain-smoking, alcoholic bitter maternal grandparents who kept his mother’s room unchanged for years—hiding truths better left buried—but can’t open their hearts to her son. Everyone Wes comes into contact is the worst possible role model for a parentless child, yet somehow he finds just the right person to help him heal and move on. Despite the stark emptiness of his life, Wes nearly finds a “real” family when he starts seeing a Native American girl. Eventually he loses even her but has a chance to form another family. Wes’s growth from adolescence to manhood is extraordinary, heart-breaking, yet inspiring. A brilliantly-written coming-of-age story, Winter Loon has taut yet lyrical prose that put me in mind of Louise Erdrich, words which one doesn’t expect from a debut author. I particularly enjoyed her recurrent use of the winter loon, weather, nature, and Native American myths to reflect and contrast with her characters. Winter Loon is not a vapid read, but underlying the central dread and misery, an uplifting redemption filters through like sunshine through leaves. Watching Wes become a better person than anyone in his dysfunctional family is haunting and magical. Several times, though moved to tears, I was forced to continue reading Bernhard’s elegent prose.
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  • Linda Knight
    January 1, 1970
    thin ice awaits those who seek happinessI read the caption on this book, selected it and then spent an entire day reading it! It kept me entranced and so wanting to go to the last chapter...but I held out and was rewarded for it.
  • Patricia Caldwell
    January 1, 1970
    A beautiful emotional readI haven’t been touched by a book like this in a long time. Beautiful, heartbreaking, extremely well written. If you’re looking for a great read, chose this bookA literary jewel
  • Jan
    January 1, 1970
    A beautifully written book about a young boy seemingly abandoned by everyone around him but yet who strives to become someone dependable and others can count on him.
  • Rbowie
    January 1, 1970
    Great characters and intriguing storytelling Gritty and unflinching coming of age story which confronts child neglect, substance abuse/alcoholism, incest, murder, racism, estrangement and complex family dynamics and still manages to be hopeful and optimistic.
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  • Linda M. Vest
    January 1, 1970
    Good book about disfunctun familyReally good look at family that are not good one. So sad. Some people never grow up and this is why.
  • Jessie Manchester
    January 1, 1970
    Winter Loon will grab you from the first page when you are drawn into the world of Wes and the heartache he has to overcome. Readers will feel as though you are beside Wes on his journey. Bernhard writes eloquently. Her imagery is spot on and places the reader in Wes' footsteps. I ached for Wes and the choices he grapples with throughout this story and could not put the book down.
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  • Rachel
    January 1, 1970
    A spellbinding novel will break your heart as much as it will fill it and once you start reading, you won’t want to stop. Winter Loon is a coming of age story that forces us to think about the meaning of family and just how much we're willing to forgive - and forget. Bernhard's brilliant prose will keep you turning the pages and rooting for Wes. Read this book!
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  • D. La
    January 1, 1970
    An appropriate title I guessI gave it four stars cause it was such a sad story. From the start to the end I turn ed d the page waiting to see this boy get some relief and self respect. It does happen but I won't say when. This story will make you feel thankfull for any love you've had in your life. There are some miserable people that will make you wonder just how many evil humans we live with oon a daily basis. I have known a few. Hopefully i will not know anymore in the rest of my life. This i An appropriate title I guessI gave it four stars cause it was such a sad story. From the start to the end I turn ed d the page waiting to see this boy get some relief and self respect. It does happen but I won't say when. This story will make you feel thankfull for any love you've had in your life. There are some miserable people that will make you wonder just how many evil humans we live with oon a daily basis. I have known a few. Hopefully i will not know anymore in the rest of my life. This is a believable story if you have known such a person and how they have marked people for their lifetime. This author is a very talented storyteller. I will be following her to see what comes next.
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  • Aleksej Wilczek
    January 1, 1970
    Haunting and compelling. The writer weaves such a beautiful narrative from the perspective of Wes Ballot. I feel such sympathy and affection for this character as tragedy after tragedy unfolds around him. There are so many melancholy observations about life and about human nature. So many of these characters were stuck in the circles they made for themselves, and this is painfully true to life. There were a few nearly sensationalist moments in this novel where I felt it became a little too ficti Haunting and compelling. The writer weaves such a beautiful narrative from the perspective of Wes Ballot. I feel such sympathy and affection for this character as tragedy after tragedy unfolds around him. There are so many melancholy observations about life and about human nature. So many of these characters were stuck in the circles they made for themselves, and this is painfully true to life. There were a few nearly sensationalist moments in this novel where I felt it became a little too fictionalized and took me out of the story a little, and I’ll have to admit that the romance element lacked any chemistry, and these were the moments that dragged, at least to me. Overall, I was satisfied by how Wes Ballot’s story ended, it was bitter sweet.
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  • Debi Hawkes
    January 1, 1970
    "I let my eyes rest again on the craggy spot, dark as spilled ink and barely out of my reach, where the ice had given way and the hungry lake had swallowed my mother whole."A truly wonderful novel. Thoughtful and thought provoking.Wes, the main character was so completely realised, my heart broke for him, over and over.My running thought while reading ... Such broken people, striving so hard to break the cycle...."Sometimes it's easier to build something new than it is to fix something broken."T "I let my eyes rest again on the craggy spot, dark as spilled ink and barely out of my reach, where the ice had given way and the hungry lake had swallowed my mother whole."A truly wonderful novel. Thoughtful and thought provoking.Wes, the main character was so completely realised, my heart broke for him, over and over.My running thought while reading ... Such broken people, striving so hard to break the cycle...."Sometimes it's easier to build something new than it is to fix something broken."This is so well written, very talented. Definitely an author to keep on my radar.
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  • Ruth Mora
    January 1, 1970
    Enjoyable!My title is definitely an understatement. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this novel. Susan Bernard weaves a little bit of any kids life into Wes's up and down coming of age story. Hard to put down. I found myself wishing he would make the right choice. But then, who's choice would it have been? Mine or his?ILooking forward to reading more books from this author. Kudos!!
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  • Susan Paullin
    January 1, 1970
    A well written melancholic story, not what I'd call an enjoyable read but the characters were well developed and the prose was good, reminded me a bit of Pat Conroy in its tone and descriptions and voice of the narrator. Perhaps this should be its own genre as it seems there's been a lot of this type of sad-main-character/dysfunctional-family-affecting-everyone themes in books lately. Anyway, three and a half stars, and time for me to find a happy-story book.
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  • randy truxell
    January 1, 1970
    I wish...I wish I could give this book so many more stars than just 5. It is a.brilliant book from a new writer. I will continue to follow her work. I became the person in the background and I gr e to know these people so well. This could use a follow up book to let us know how everything worked out.
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  • Natalie Ford
    January 1, 1970
    5 starsI chose this book from Prime first reads and I'm so glad I did. It's such a heartfelt story with some difficult subject matter told to us through the main character who is so damaged but so likeable, you literally go on a journey with him. I was actually sorry to finish this book! Highly recommend
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  • Melyssa MacQuarrie
    January 1, 1970
    Reflective readThis book, in beautiful prose, walks the reader through a young man's coming to terms with the imperfections of his family, and, ultimately, his own. As Wes searches for a place to belong, he explores all the ways we belong, are nurtured, are left behind and leave others behind. It's a difficult story to read, at times, but worth the effort.
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  • Leorah
    January 1, 1970
    Winter LoonI wasn’t sure what to expect from this novel, but I ended up thoroughly enjoying it. Wes Ballot survived despite all the pain in his life. Ultimately this was a story of hope.
  • Pamela Klinger-horn
    January 1, 1970
    A gorgeous evocative novel set in Minnesota. Book clubs will find plenty of discussion material and it is a great read for teens as well.
  • Sarah Linyard
    January 1, 1970
    3.5 stars
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