I would give this book 3 1/2 stars if that was an option. I thought the first half of the book was tedious. It went on and on with the problems of Meredith and Nina, the unloved daughters of Anya. No matter what they did, they could not get love or recognition from their Russian mother. Before their beloved father dies, he tries to get his daughters to listen to a "fairy tale" that their mother had always started and never finished. He believed this would help his daughters understand their mother. Why he didn't insist on this before he died wasn't answered.The fairy tale is actually the story of Anya's life in Russia. Meredith and Nina finally learn about the horrors which took place in Leningrad, Russia during World War II. Over a million people died when the Germans blockaded the city and prevented food from entering the city. This part of the book was moving and a fast read. As the story gradually emerges from Anya, the healing begins, both for her and her daughters.Unfortunately, I found the tale rather far-fetched. Why would a loving father allow his daughters to grow up believing they were unloved by their mother? Why would a loving husband not urge psychological help for his wife who desperately needed it. If Anya spent 40 years withdrawn from her daughters, is it realistic to believe that she could then start acting like a loving mother after telling the story of her life in Russia? Why wait until the father dies to begin the healing and reconciling of the family? These drawbacks detracted from the novel and diminished the overall impact of the story that the author wanted to tell.