New Leaves In Winter

Fiction - Literary
276 Pages
Reviewed on 03/13/2023
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Author Biography

Before beginning a successful career as a business executive, C. Gary Johnston was an advertising copywriter. He is also the author of the novel Secrets Unused. He and his wife live in suburban St. Louis.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Cheryl E. Rodriguez for Readers' Favorite

C. Gary Johnston pens an insightful dramatic tale in New Leaves in Winter. It is the holiday season; the weather has turned cold and somewhat precarious for travel. However, the frigid and threatening atmosphere of Starlinger’s Advertising far surpasses the wintry elements outside. Daniel Pierce has been summoned to the owner's mansion, fearing what awaits him. Days earlier, Joan Schneider, Dan’s co-worker, received a mysterious text from the grandson of the owner to meet with him. However, this meeting never occurs, and the reasons are strange and grow stranger with each passing day. What is happening at Starlingers? Are the rumors true, could the infamous Starlinger family be cursed? Dan and Joan find themselves caught in a web of anxious uncertainty, trying to navigate through, “another reckless tragedy of the rich,” and keep their jobs.

New Leaves in Winter by C. Gary Johnston is an engaging tale. Johnston's creative and unique writing style leaves a trail of cryptic crumbs as the story unfolds. The first chapter baits you quickly, and chapter by chapter you are reeled into the corporate drama. Enhanced by using flashbacks in the timeline, the action twists and turns. Johnston is careful and doesn’t give away too much too soon. The points of view of the characters change frequently. Through the varying perspectives, the characters' memories, emotions, and thoughts are revealed. As a result, this literary device gives an in-depth panoramic view of the characters and the setting. The conflict is penned in the mind of the characters as well as in the plot action. The plot is overshadowed by doubt, insecurity, and fateful misfortune. At the apex of the action, the villainous antagonist is revealed. At that point, the outcome spirals into the revelatory conclusion. Hold on tight! C. Gary Johnston’s New Leaves in Winter invites you into the haunting pressure and emotional roller coaster ride of corporate America.

Nino Lobiladze

New Leaves in Winter by C. Gary Johnston revolves around two protagonists, Dan Pierce, and Joan Schneider. Dan works in advertising and Joan in public relations for Joseph Starlinger. His company is a local family business that includes two upscale grocery stores, Starlingers. Around two weeks before Christmas, Joan gets a text from Jeff Starlinger, the founder's grandson, urging her to meet him in the office early the next day. Joan feels uneasy regarding her position at Starlingers, which only worsens after she receives shocking news and unexpected directions from the company's legal counsel, Trent Woodworth. Dan Pierce made a poor choice during an event at an advertising agency, Andrews West. Now, he is afraid of losing his job and reputation. New Leaves in Winter is for fans of psychological and family drama, and suspense.

C. Gary Johnston is a master at building intrigue and suspense. He allows us to read the thoughts of Dan Pierce and Joan Schneider, revealing their constant inner monologue. Thus, we can follow the events from unique perspectives and compare their perceptions with the different characters. New Leaves in Winter has a non-linear narrative that adds to the growing suspense, making the tension almost palpable. Johnston brilliantly turns a story with simple prerequisites into a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions. It describes an ordinary situation extraordinarily. It is impossible to predict the plotline of this fascinating story until its last page. I appreciated Johnston's clear and detailed writing style and his portrayal of the characters. He skillfully creates an illusion of their good intentions to warn us that even the most respectable facade can hide many vices.

Lexie Fox

New Leaves In Winter by C. Gary Johnston tells the tale of corporate managers Dan and Joan as the rug is pulled out from under them after a tragedy at work leads to a crisis that could cost them both their careers. The story does an excellent job of portraying the cutthroat world of upper management, where accomplishments matter less than workplace intrigue when deciding who will reach the top of the food chain. It is a world of mistrust and manipulation where, as Dan and Joan discover, the whole world can come crashing down on those who rest on their laurels or try to maintain a sense of honor or fairness.

Above all else, this is a character study of two people grounded so skillfully in the real world that they could easily be your neighbor, co-worker, or friend. Their development as they wrestle to gain some modicum of control over their futures was a delight to read, and C. Gary Johnston has done an excellent job of capturing the panic that comes from feeling like you’re a pawn in someone else’s game. As the events of the novel cause Dan and Joan to re-evaluate their lives, I constantly felt like New Leaves In Winter portrays the speed and suddenness with which life can change not just with accuracy but also with a deeply nuanced understanding. I recommend this book to all as an engaging deep dive into corporate America and the ugly reality of existing within it.