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Review: The Winter in Anna explores romance that could have been


Local author Reed Karaim was raised in a library and aspired to be an author from a young age. Once he started a career in journalism he fell in love with reporting. Throughout his life he went on the road with Bill Clinton to cover his 1992 campaign, published an award-winning novel and is starting on his third.

Karaim’s second and most recent novel, “The Winter in Anna,” was released on January 17. The unique story is inspired by a variety of personal experiences, all leading to his consideration of how one can take the measure of another person’s life. 

The relationship at the center of the story is not unlike the connections common among work colleagues, especially in the unique space of a newsroom before the digital age.

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Drawing on his own experiences, Karaim tells the stories of the protagonist Eric. The narrative is complemented by his writing style with clear journalistic language—remaining simple, sharp and splendidly scrupulous.

The novel begins with Eric, now married with children, looking back on his early decisions. He is dealing with the painful puzzles left behind by someone from his past who has recently committed suicide, Anna. Rather than focusing on the end of Anna’s life, the novel divulges her story piece by piece through Eric. Using anecdotes and inspirations he reveals parts of what made her who she was—quietly important to his life and the life of their small town.

Like Eric, Karaim has worked at a weekly paper and had his first journalism job in his home state of North Dakota. Karaim studied English and journalism at North Dakota State University and made his way out in the world. He realized he was pretty good at reporting, listening to people and communicating what is most important to them, in the ultimate interest of the public.

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Karaim admits “The Winter in Anna” was an idea that was in development a long time. It was originally supposed to be a long short story but, when it came down to it, the story of Anna needed to be feature-length. Using Eric’s memory as the frame of the story, Anna and a sporadic plot of intrigue are naturally recalled by the protagonist. 

Though Anna, Eric and the other characters are fictional, the novel waxes autobiographical at times in some of the “oddball,” and serious situations the characters find themselves in. Karaim pointed to some specific moments based in reality, including a grim evaluation of a railroad yard after an accident and interviewing an unpassionate Elvis collector for a towns person profile.

Whether making a secret known to the world through his continued freelance journalism or sharing stories of real people with readers of his novels, Karaim has displayed his distinct understanding of individuals. He has a desire to get out their story and create hope and connection with people like Anna.  

The novel is available now, worldwide, through W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.

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