The Winter Peopleby Jennifer McMahon
A Boston Globe Best Book of the Year
West Hall, Vermont, has always been a town of strange disappearances and old legends. The most mysterious is that of Sara Harrison Shea, who, in 1908, was found dead in the field behind her house just months after the tragic death of her daughter.
Now, in present day, nineteen-year-old Ruthie/b>/i>
A Boston Globe Best Book of the Year
West Hall, Vermont, has always been a town of strange disappearances and old legends. The most mysterious is that of Sara Harrison Shea, who, in 1908, was found dead in the field behind her house just months after the tragic death of her daughter.
Now, in present day, nineteen-year-old Ruthie lives in Sara’s farmhouse with her mother, Alice, and her younger sister. Alice has always insisted that they live off the grid, a decision that has weighty consequences when Ruthie wakes up one morning to find that Alice has vanished. In her search for clues, she is startled to find a copy of Sara Harrison Shea's diary hidden beneath the floorboards of her mother's bedroom. As Ruthie gets sucked into the historical mystery, she discovers that she’s not the only person looking for someone that they’ve lost. But she may be the only one who can stop history from repeating itself.
In this scary thriller, McMahon (The One I Left Behind) explores how far people will go to save the ones they love, and what results when they go too far. In 1908, Sara Harrison Shea, a resident of West Hall, Vt., becomes convinced she can bring her murdered daughter back to life. In the present day, 19-year-old Ruthie Washburne’s mother vanishes from their farm without a trace, forcing Ruthie to research West Hall’s dark history of disappearances, animal sacrifice, and inexplicable phenomena. Ruthie’s chilling discovery that Sara was found murdered with her skin removed a few months after her daughter’s burial raises the stakes. Almost every character is imbued with a great deal of psychological depth, which makes the stereotypical portrayal of Auntie, a Native American sorceress, all the more disappointing. McMahon is more successful when she deftly switches between past and present, using the changes in perspective to increase the tension. Author tour. Agent: Daniel Lazar, Writers House. (Feb.)
A century after Sara Harrison Shea was found dead behind her Vermont house following the tragic loss of her daughter, Ruthie lives in the same house with her sister and their mother, Alice. When Alice disappears, Ruthie reads Sara's crumbling diary and sees eerie parallels. Twisty psychological suspense following the New York Times best seller Promise Not To Tell.
A peaceful Vermont village turns creepy in this tale of the dead returning to life. Sara Harrison Shea's precious daughter, Gertie, dies in 1908 during a harsh and unforgiving winter in which her mother and father, Martin, struggle to keep food on the table. Gertie isn't the first child Sara has lost, but her death is the one she has the most difficult time accepting. When she refuses to believe that Gertie is gone forever and blames Martin for her loss, Sara sets in motion a tragic and horrifying chain of events that will forever change the lives of everyone around them. Flashing back and forth between Sara's time period and the present, the author evokes a sense of suffering and hopelessness as she gathers a cast of characters who bring out the worst in one another: the mysterious, otherworldly Auntie who raised Sara and died before Gertie's birth; the present-day sisters, Ruthie and lemur-eyed, feverish Fawn, who live with their mother, Alice, known in the town as the Egg Lady; and Katherine, newly arrived, a recent widow and artist who is also mourning her lost son. Alice and her late husband were careful to shield their daughters from the outside world, forbidding them access to the Internet, television and other technology, and home-schooling Ruthie. So when Alice vanishes, Ruthie's search for her causes her to cross paths with people and things she doesn't understand. McMahon, a masterful storyteller who understands how to build suspense, creates an ocean of tension that self-implodes in the last two-thirds of the book. That's when her characters make implausible decisions that cause them to behave like teens in low-budget horror films who know there's a mad killer on the loose, yet when they hear noises in the basement, they go down alone to investigate anyway. Although she writes flawless prose, McMahon's characters' improbable choices derail her story.
“One of the year’s most chilling novels. . . . Enthralling.”—The Miami Herald
“Crisp, mysterious and scary. . . . Reminiscent of Stephen King.” —USA Today
“A hauntingly beautiful read.” —Oprah.com
“The Winter People is hypnotic, gripping and deeply moving. . . . A dream from which I didn't want to wake.” —Lisa Unger, author of In the Blood
“McMahon is a scrupulous writer, nicely attentive to the nuances of character and landscape.... The mournful voice of Sara Shea lingers in the memory, and McMahon, wisely, gives her the last word.” —The New York Times Book Review
“An edge-of-your-seat scary ghost story. . . . I will never look at the woods behind my home in the same way again!” —Heather Gudenkauf, author of The Weight of Silence
“Not a book to be read late at night, or in a creaky old house, The Winter People is a literary thriller to savor.” —Shelf Awareness
“Deliciously terrifying. . . . Jennifer McMahon knows how to conjure your darkest fears and nightmares . . . pulling you deep into the forbidden, secret world of The Winter People.” —Chevy Stevens, author of Always Watching
“The Winter People blends the anguish of loss and the yearning for connection into one great story, well told.” —Kate Alcott, author of The Dressmaker
“McMahon gives readers just what they want: can’t-put-it-down, stay-up-until-dawn reading. . . . [The Winter People] is also a poignant reminder of what grief can drive humans to do.” —BookPage
"Gives a fresh twist to a small-town ghost story.” —The South Florida Sun-Sentinel
“Hard to put down.” —The Oklahoman
- Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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Read an Excerpt
The Winter People
By Jennifer McMahon
Random House LLCCopyright © 2015 Jennifer McMahon
All rights reserved.
Visitors from the Other Side
The Secret Diary of Sara Harrison Shea
January 29, 1908
The first time I saw a sleeper, I was nine years old.
It was the spring before Papa sent Auntie away--before we lost my brother, Jacob. My sister, Constance, had married the fall before and moved to Graniteville.
I was up exploring in the woods, near the Devil's Hand, where Papa had forbidden us to play. The trees were leafing out, making a lush green canopy overhead. The sun had warmed the soil, giving the damp woods a rich, loamy smell. Here and there beneath the beech, sugar maple, and birch trees were spring flowers: trilliums, trout lilies, and my favorite, jack-in-the-pulpit, a funny little flower with a secret: if you lift the striped hood, you'll find the preacher underneath. Auntie had shown me this, and taught me that you could dig up the tubers and cook them like turnips. I had just found one and was pulling back the hood, looking for the tiny figure underneath, when I heard footsteps, slow and steady, moving my way. Heavy feet dragging through the dry leaves, stumbling on roots. I wanted to run, but froze with panic, having squatted down low behind a rock just as a figure moved into the clearing.
I recognized her at once--Hester Jameson.
She'd died two weeks before from typhoid fever. I had attended her funeral with Papa and Jacob, seen her laid to rest in the cemetery behind the church up by Cranberry Meadow. Everyone from school was there, all in Sunday best.
Hester's father, Erwin, ran Jameson's Tack and Feed Shop. He wore a black coat with frayed sleeves, and his nose was red and running. Beside him stood his wife, Cora Jameson, a heavyset woman who had a seamstress shop in town. Mrs. Jameson sobbed into a lace handkerchief, her whole body heaving and trembling.
I had been to funerals before, but never for someone my own age. Usually it was the very old or the very young. I couldn't take my eyes off the casket, just the right size for a girl like me. I stared at the plain wooden box until I grew dizzy, wondering what it might feel like to be laid out inside. Papa must have noticed, because he took my hand and gave it a squeeze, pulled me a little closer to him.
Reverend Ayers, a young man then, said Hester was with the angels. Our old preacher, Reverend Phelps, was stooped over, half deaf, and none of what he said made any sense--it was all frightening metaphors about sin and salvation. But when Reverend Ayers with his sparkling blue eyes spoke, it felt as if he said each word right to me.
"I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you."
For the first time, I understood the word of God, because Reverend Ayers spoke it. His voice, all the girls said, could soothe the Devil himself.
A red-winged blackbird cried out conk-a-reee from a nearby hazel bush. He puffed up his red shoulders and sang over and over, as loud as he could, his call almost hypnotic; even Reverend Ayers paused to look.
Mrs. Jameson dropped to her knees, keening. Mr. Jameson tried to pull her up, but did not have the strength.
I stood right beside Papa, clutching his hand, as dirt was shoveled down on the coffin of poor Hester Jameson. Hester had a crooked front tooth, but a beautifully delicate face. She had been the best in our class at arithmetic. Once, for my birthday, she gave me a note with a flower pressed inside. A violet it was, dried out and perfectly preserved. May your day be as special as you are, she'd written in perfect cursive. I tucked it into my Bible, where it stayed for years, until it either disintegrated or fell out, I cannot recall.
Now, two weeks after her very own funeral, Hester's sleeper caught sight of me there in the woods, crouching behind the rock. I shall never forget the look in her eyes--the frightened half-recognition of someone waking from a horrible dream.
I had heard about sleepers; there was even a game we played in the schoolyard in which one child would be laid out dead in a circle of violets and forget-menots. Then someone would lean down and whisper magic words in the dead girl's ear, and she would rise and chase all the other children. The first one she caught would be the next to die.
I think I may have even played this game once with Hester Jameson.
I had heard whispers, rumors of sleepers called back from the land of the dead by grieving husbands and wives, but was certain they only existed in the stories old women liked to tell each other while they folded laundry or stitched stockings--something to pass the time, and to make any eavesdropping children hurry home before dark.
I had been sure, up until then, that God in his infinite wisdom would not have allowed such an abomination.
Hester and I were not ten feet apart. Her blue dress was filthy and torn, her corn-silk hair in tangles. She gave off the musty smell of damp earth, but there was something else behind it, an acrid, greasy, burnt odor, similar to what you smell when you blow out a tallow candle.
Our eyes met, and I yearned to speak, to say her name, but could only manage a strangled-sounding Hss.
Hester ran off into the woods like a startled rabbit. I stayed frozen, clinging pathetically to my rock like a bit of lichen.
From down the path leading to the Devil's Hand came another figure, running, calling Hester's name.
It was her mother, Cora Jameson.
She stopped when she saw me, face flushed and frantic. She was breathing hard and had scratches on her face and arms, pieces of dry leaves and twigs tangled in her hair.
"Tell no one," she said.
"But why?" I asked, stepping out from behind the rock.
She looked right at me--through me, almost, as if I were a pane of dirty window glass. "Someday, Sara," she said, "maybe you'll love someone enough to understand."
Then she ran off into the woods, following her daughter.
I told Auntie about it later.
"Is it really possible?" I asked. "To bring someone back like that?"
We were down by the river, picking fiddleheads, filling Auntie's basket with the curled fern tops, as we did each spring. Then we'd bring them home and make a creamy soup stuffed full of wild greens and herbs that Auntie had gathered along the way. We were also there to check the traps--Auntie had caught a beaver just two days before and was hoping for another. Beaver pelts were a rarity and brought a high price. They were once nearly as common as squirrels', Auntie said, but trappers had taken all except a handful.
Buckshot was with us, nosing the ground, ears attentive to every little sound. I never knew if he was all wolf, or only part. Auntie had found him as a pup, when he'd fallen into one of her pit traps after being all shot up by someone. She'd carried him home, pulled the buckshot pellets out of him, stitched him up, and nursed him back to health. He'd been by her side ever since.
"He was lucky you found him," I said after hearing the story.
"Luck had nothing to do with it," Auntie told me. "He and I were meant for one another."
I never saw such devotion in a dog--or any animal, for that matter. His wounds had healed, but the buckshot left him blind in his right eye, which was milky white. His ghost eye, Auntie called it.
"He came so close to death, he's got one eye back there still," she explained. I loved Buckshot, but I hated that milky-white moon that seemed to see everything and nothing all at once.
Auntie was not related to me by blood, but she cared for me, raised me after my own mother died giving birth to me. I had no memory of my mother--the only proofs of her existence were my parents' wedding photograph, the quilt she'd sewn that I slept under every night, and the stories my older brother and sister told.
My brother claimed I had my mother's laugh. My sister said that my mother had been the best dancer in the county, that she was the envy of all the other girls.
Auntie's people came from up north, in Quebec. Her father had been a trapper; her mother, an Indian woman. Auntie carried a hunting knife, and wore a long deerskin coat decorated with bright beads and porcupine quills. She spoke French, and sang songs in a language I never did recognize. She wore a ring carved from yellowed bone on her right pointer finger.
"What does it say?" I asked once, touching the strange letters and symbols on its surface.
"That life is a circle," she answered.
People in town were frightened of Auntie, but their fear did not keep them away from her door. They followed the well-worn path to her cabin in the woods out behind the Devil's Hand, carrying coins, honey, whiskey--whatever they had to trade for her remedies. Auntie had drops for colic, tea for fever, even a little blue bottle that she swore contained a potion so powerful that with one drop the object of your heart's desire would be yours. I knew better than to doubt her.
There were other things I knew about Auntie, too. I'd seen her sneak out of Papa's bedroom in the early morning, heard the sounds that came from behind his locked door when she visited him there.
I also knew better than to cross her. She had a fiery temper and little patience with people who did not see things her way. If people refused to pay her for her services, she'd call on them, sprinkle their homes with black powder pulled from one of her leather pouches, and speak a strange incantation. Terrible things would befall those families from then on: sicknesses, fires, crop losses, even death.
I tossed a handful of dark-green fiddleheads into the basket.
"Tell me, Auntie, please," I begged, "can the dead come back?"
Auntie looked at me a long time, head cocked to the side, her small, dark eyes fixed on mine.
"Yes," she told me at last. "There is a way. Few know of it, but those who do, pass it down to their children. Because you are the closest I will ever come to a child of my own, the secret will go to you. I will write it all down, everything I know about sleepers. I will fold up the papers, put them in an envelope, and seal it with wax. You will hide it away, and one day, when you are ready, you will open it up."
"How will I know I am ready?" I asked.
She smiled, showing her small teeth, pointed like a fox's and stained brown from tobacco. "You will know."
I am writing these words in secret, hidden under covers. Martin and Lucius believe I am sleeping. I hear them downstairs, drinking coffee and discussing my prognosis. (Not good, I'm afraid.)
I have been going back in my mind, thinking over how all of this began, piecing things together the way one might sew a quilt. But, oh, what a hideous and twisted quilt mine would be!
"Gertie," I hear Martin say above the clink of a spoon stirring coffee in his favorite tin mug. I imagine the furrow of his brow, the deep worry lines there; how sad his face must be after he spoke her name.
I hold my breath and listen hard.
"Sometimes a tragedy breaks a person," Lucius says. "Sometimes they will never be whole again."
If I close my eyes even now, I can still see my Gertie's face, feel her sugary breath on my cheek. I can so vividly recall our last morning together, hear her saying, "If snow melts down to water, does it still remember being snow?"
January 12, 1908
"Wake up, Martin." A soft whisper, a flutter against his cheek. "It's time."
Martin opened his eyes, leaving the dream of a woman with long dark hair. She'd been telling him something. Something important, something he was not supposed to forget.
He turned over in bed. He was alone, Sara's side of the bed cold. He sat up, listening carefully. Voices, soft giggles across the hall, from behind Gertie's bedroom door.
Had Sara spent the whole night in with Gertie again? Surely it couldn't be good for the girl, to smother her like that. Sometimes he worried that Sara's attachment to Gertie simply wasn't .?.?. healthy. Just last week, Sara had kept Gertie home from school for three straight days, and for those three days Sara doted on her--plaiting her hair, making her a new dress, baking her cookies, playing hide-and-seek. Sara's niece, Amelia, offered to take Gertie for the weekend, and Sara had made excuses--she gets homesick so easily, she's so frail-but Martin understood that it was Sara who could not bear to be without Gertie. Sara never seemed whole unless Gertie was by her side.
He pushed the worried thoughts away. Better to focus on the problems he understood and could do something about.
The house was cold, the fire out.
He peeled back the covers, threw his legs over the side of the bed, and pulled on his pants. His bad foot hung there like a hoof till he shoved it into the special boot fashioned for him by the cobbler in Montpelier. The soles were worn through, and he'd stuffed the bottoms of both boots with dry grass and cattail fluff, all layered over scraps of leather, in a futile attempt to keep the dampness out. There was no money for new custom-made boots now.
Blight had ruined most of last fall's potato crop, and they relied on the money they got from selling the potatoes to the starch factory to get through the winter. It was only January, and the root cellar was nearly bare: a few spongy potatoes and carrots, some Hubbard squash, half a dozen jars of string beans and tomatoes Sara had put up last summer, a little salt pork from the hog they'd butchered in November (they'd traded most of the meat for dry goods at the general store). Martin would have to get a deer soon if they were going to have enough to eat. Sara had a talent for stretching what little food they had, for making milk gravy and biscuits with a bit of salt pork into a meal, but she couldn't create something from nothing.
Excerpted from The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon. Copyright © 2015 Jennifer McMahon. Excerpted by permission of Random House LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
Jennifer McMahon is the author of six novels, including the New York Times bestsellers Island of Lost Girls and Promise Not to Tell. She graduated from Goddard College and studied poetry in the MFA Writing Program at Vermont College. She currently lives with her partner and daughter in Montpelier, Vermont.
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What a great book this was to read around Halloween! When I started this novel, I was also reading three other books at the same time, but dropped them to focus on this one because I couldn't wait to see what would happen. A small New England town during winter, disappearances, murders, and 'sleepers' - what a perfect setup for a captivating read. I'm not giving anything away when I say the 'sleepers' in this story brought to mind Stephen King's Pet Sematary - the sleepers are mentioned on the first page by Sara in her diary. This is the first book I've read in quite some time where the story is told primarily in varying female perspectives. The reader is taken back to the early 1900's in Sara's point of view and then to present day from Ruthie and Kathleen's perspectives. Sara's husband also gets a couple of chapters of his own, but those just helped me understand Sara even more. It became evident early on there was a connection between most of the characters in this story and the mystery of that is what kept me turning the pages. I enjoyed all the characters in this book, even if I doubted their sanity and innocence at times. As a mother, I could understand Sara's grief, her inability to let go of her child, and the boundaries she crossed to keep that from happening. This was a wonderful blend of thriller, mystery, and horror genres - not the blood and gore type, more of the goosebumps-on-your-arms, hair-on-the-back-of-your-neck-raising, don't-look-over-your-shoulder kind. I haven't read anything by this author before and, looking at some other reviews, this is apparently a different path for her, but I enjoyed the journey. This review is based on a digital ARC from the publisher through NetGalley.
It's been so long since I've had the pleasure of reading a page-turning Gothic novel. Daphne DuMaurier was one of my very favorites, Anne Rice is an awesome writer in this vein, but lately she has gone into new territory that doesn't hold my interest. This book sounds like it will appeal to lovers of dark and spooky nights.
3.5/5 It seems to be things that go bump in the night week for me! Jennifer McMahon's latest book is The Winter People. I love the dedication..... " For Zeila. Because one day, you wanted to play a really creepy game about two sisters whose parents had disappeared in the woods ..... Sometimes it just happens." And that's exactly what happens. Ruthie and Fawn live with their mother Alice in West Hall, Vermont on a hardscrabble farm near a rocky ridge known as The Devil's Hand. When Alice disappears without a trace, the girls search the house for clues - and come upon a diary hidden under the floorboards. The diary is from 1908 and belonged to Sara, a former resident of the house. What Ruthie reads seems impossible. But again, there have always been rumours and legends about Devil's Hand. And people do go missing..... McMahon weaves her story through past and present as the girls search for their mother and we catch up by reading Sara's diary from 1908. "She's one of the winter people. The people who are stuck between here and there, waiting. It reminds me of winter, how everything is all pale and cold and full of nothing, and all you can do is wait for sparing." I really enjoyed the build up of the story and found it hard to put down - I wanted to know what had happened and what was going to happen. But I found one of the final characters involved in the ending overdone and the conclusion was a little too predictable and somewhat familiar. (Think Pet Semetary) For me, this somewhat detracted from what had been a good horror/ghost story up until then. Of the two narratives, I preferred Sara's from 1908. It was scarier and more atmospheric. Still, The Winter People kept me turning pages on a dark winter night. Entertaining, but not my favourite McMahon book. (Island of Lost Girls is my fave.)
This story was excellent. Jennifer McMahon magically wove together the story line from 1908 and present day. And while technically you could say this is a zombie book, Gertie does come back from the dead, it doesn’t have the feel of a typical zombie story. It’s more of a mystery with a touch of a ghost story and a bit of horror combined. I don’t want to go deeply into the plot because there would be spoilers. That was the joy of reading the book, figuring out the mystery along with the characters of present day. It also has the reader thinking, at first, that it’s not possible to bring back the dead. But as you go further into the story, you begin to wonder if it could happen. There are so many unexplained things on this planet, and people have long since believed in the supernatural, so just maybe. The few horror parts were well written, and I could easily picture the scenes. The one in particular that made me a bit squeamish was how they found Sara dead. There’s a couple unanswered questions that will leave the reader thinking about the book even after they have finished it. The one that I keep wondering about is Fawn, Ruthie’s sister, and her doll. Was the doll really talking to Fawn, since she seemed to know things that a child wouldn’t have known. Or was Fawn a bit of a psychic, and could she see into the future. How the book ended left it open for another book, and I would definitely read it. Also with Fawn possibly being psychic, it would compliment Ruthie very nicely if there were to be another book.
Spooky and delicious. Loved it.
This is quite possibly the best book I have ever read. I read it cover to cover in about 24 hours, could not put it down and when I did have to stop reading it is all I thought about. I am sure I will be cracking this one open again very soon.
Was a really good book. Couldn't put it down.
As paranormal fiction and horror are two of my favorite genres, I found The Winter People absolutely captivating. Only when her mother disappears and the old house starts giving up its secrets, does Ruthie realize that she is living on a cursed piece of land where a gruesome family saga played itself out about a century ago. Soon those who have lost loved ones, as well as those who want to become rich by selling the Harrison family secret, converge on Ruthie and her little sister. Paranormal phenomena like vampires and werewolves don't scare me at all. Ghosts and things involving the dead rising, however, are the kind of tales that will make me hesitate to switch the light off at night. From pale things seen in the woods and the inexplicable smell of ozone, to mysterious disappearances and the feeling of being watched, this book is full of that kind of thrilling, thoroughly scary material. The frightening tales and legends woven round these incidents by the residents of the town of West Hall, just add to this incredible mystery. As the story is written from different points of view, it is difficult to truly identify with one character in particular. Although Ruthie's part in the story starts off with her being a rather rebellious teenager who is extremely unhappy with living in a small town, she soon becomes more responsible when her mother disappears and she is left with the responsibility of her sick little sister, Fawn. That said little sister is rather secretive, and a bit weird, doesn't help either. Other characters like the grieving Katherine who is looking for clues about her dead husband's last few hours and the mean, extremely greedy, trigger-happy Candace, are fleshed out and realistic. The characters from the historic part of the story, however, were crafted even more believably. In the end I truly didn't know whether the mystical Auntie, Sarah Harrison Shea, her rather weak husband, or something far more evil were responsible for the death of the little girl, Gertie. The author's brilliant use of the Vermont woods in winter, a little bone ring, a diary and a mysterious map, augment the spooky atmosphere of this book. I highly recommend The Winter People to all who love a good, thrilling paranormal tale with more than a bit of horror. (Ellen Fritz)
Spooky, but what is it with the current style of going back and forth in time. Seems every book I read lately is written this way. Gets confusing keeping characters straight. About 2/3 of the way through I was tempted to move on to something else...it just went on much too long. Seemed very much like an old horror movie from the 60's.
I liked this book a lot up (had to force myself to put it down so I could go to bed) until the last 25 pages or so. I felt that the ending was weak and the explanation of the events in the book were not well tied- almost rushed and unbelievable. Still, despite the letdown, I'm glad I read it and will look into other books by this author.
I took some time for me to really appreciate and get into the story but it just kept building and the anticipation kept growing as I reached the end. I truly enjoyed this read.
A town full of secrets and myths, and spirits – visitors from “the other side”, how to awaken a “Sleeper” (ones called back from the dead). Can the dead return not only in spirit, but as a person? Once a sleeper is returned – then what? What happens within the seven days? The WINTER PEOPLE is a gripping novel set in Vermont, with strange disappearances. Sara Shea was found dead in the field behind her house in 1908, after the tragic death of her daughter Gertie (when she falls into a well). There were rumors that sleepers inhabited in the woods and a rock called “The Devil’s Hand.” Fast forward, 19 yr. old Ruthie lives in Sara’s farmhouse with her mother Alice, and her younger sister Fawn. One morning Ruthie finds Alice has vanished and begins searching for clues. She finds a copy of Sara’s diary hidden beneath the floorboards of her mother’s bedroom. Ruthie and Fawn begin to dig further into the mystery of Sara, and discovers she is not the only one searching for something lost. What is the secret? Can she stop history from repeating itself? Should we let those who’ve crossed over stay on the other side, no matter our selfish desire or grief to see them again? THE WINTER PEOPLE is told between the pages of Sara’s diary as she loved her Auntie, a woman scorned by the town except those needing a remedy and then they would visit the woods. Auntie left a secret message for Sara to open when the time was right. Is there any truth to the stories that claim that Sara's old Auntie had the power to bring the dead back to life? And that others knew the secret -- and could have used it? From the days leading to her legend to the present day ---a psychological thriller. I listened to the audio version, narrated by Cassandra Campbell and Kathe Mazur. The first part of the book was very slow moving and a little boring at times. The second half seemed to pick up a bit; however, finding myself wanting it to end, as not really my type of genre. Unfortunately I was never hooked nor connected.
If you’re looking for a book that will have you reading into the wee hours of the morning, then search no further because The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon is the book for you. Set in the tiny town of West Hall, Vermont, this creepy gem bounces back and forth from the early 1900′s to present day; the common links being swift disappearances and unexplained deaths. The Winter People starts out telling two sides of the same story, one about a missing mother in present day and the other a missing daughter a century earlier, as told by the mother in her diary. As the book progresses, McMahon weaves a tale that reminds me of an accordion, bringing the two stories closer together and adding intrigue by pulling them apart over and over. The result in a fantastically creepy story that will both shock you and make complete sense. As a self-proclaimed horror-wimp, I was a little hesitant to pick this up because I heard it was creepy. In the end, I caved because everyone was talking about it and I figured I could always put it in the freezer. To be fair, in the two nights I read this book, I did check to make sure the doors were locked a few times more than necessary, closed all of the closet doors, and slept with the light on. That said, this isn’t a horror book in the traditional sense. It’s not a slasher book, nor is it a true psychological thriller. What makes it so creepy is that it taps into a type of madness that could afflict anyone consumed by grief. This, to me, is the scariest type of book. If you’re a mystery fan, then you must read this book. If you’re not a mystery fan but enjoy books that explore the human psyche and the walls one can build around them to avoid the truth, then this is absolutely the book for you. (Allison @ The Book Wheel)
It's been a while since I've read a really good scary story. Jennifer McMahon writes that kind you'd hope to hear around a fireplace on a wintry evening in Vermont...fitting since that's her personal surrounding. It's the perfect novel if you want a gothic mystery that's a page turner when you're alone some night or weekend. It simply draws you in and makes you feel as if you know the creaky floors of the old Victorian farmhouse you're walking about in, you can see the dense, craggy woods beyond the farmland, and you sense the presence of ghostly beings. I've lived in the North Country of New Hampshire and Vermont and know very well the type of landscape, snow, rock formations and lonely old farmhouses Ms McMahon writes about, but even if you haven't, or aren't a native of that area, you can't help falling into the pace of this book. It's an old-fashioned gothic with a mystery that runs the gamut of several generations. It's creepier than a modern witch story because it seems more set in reality. The characters are well drawn and vivid. The women in particular leap from the pages. Neurotic, deeply loving mothers, risk-takers, committed wives, these women are tough and tender at the same time. It's difficult not to identify with them and their heart-felt run for saving their children at all costs. The men characters are crafted more shadowy. While their emotions are told, they are not as strong as the women involved in the story. If there's anything to complain about, it would be that I found it difficult to follow all the different voices and timeframes bouncing back and forth in the novel since I read it in ebook format. I find I loose the context when I read from ebooks. I don't think the same thing would have happened had I had the actual book in hand. This is a great book with the perfect timing of a gothic, ghostly mystery. I thoroughly enjoyed it and strongly recommend it. Unlike anything else I've read this year. It's a book that kept my attention firmly in place to the end. 4.5 stars Deborah/TheBookishDame
Excellent book couldn't put it down will read more by this author
Keeps your attention. Some tension
Jennifer McMahon has done it again, another AMAZING book with a huge complicated puzzle to put together. Every new secret is more dramatic and unforeseen. The beginning is a bit of a drag, but it's important and once you get past it there will be no turning back. All around fantastic book.
The tragic events of the past come crashing into the present when Ruthie and Fawn discover their mother, Alice, missing . Somehow, they know her disappearance is tied to a horrific series events from 1908. Back then, a terrible chain of events was set in motion when the woman Sara Shea knew as “Auntie,” a woman of great power, was cast out by Sara’s family and killed by Sara’s father. Years later, Sara’s little girl Gertie is found dead, sending Sara into the pit of madness. But something her Auntie had taught her came back to her. She knew the secret for creating a sleeper, for bringing the dead back to life, and she brought her Gertie back. But Gertie wasn’t the same, and before all was said and done, both Sara and her husband Martin died horrible deaths. Sleepers are only supposed to walk the earth for 7 days, unless they spill blood. In that case, they’re condemned to wander the earth for eternity. What does this have to do with modern events? Ruthie, Fawn, and Alice just happen to live in Sara’s old house. There is something in the woods, and people are willing to kill for the secret of bringing dead loved ones back to life. This reminded me an awful lot of King’s Pet Cemetery. However, it doesn’t seem that those brought back are really evil, just really hungry and really powerful. They require someone to look after them while protecting the rest of the world from them. There were several side stories going on in addition to the two main story lines (Sara/Gertie and Alice/Ruthie), so things got a little complicated at times. Overall, it was an interesting read that kept me guessing--I wasn’t sure what actually happened to Sara, Martin, and Gertie until pretty close to the end.
Must confess, I've read all of Jennifer McMahon's books and have enjoyed ALL! The Winter People.....LOVED.....but read with the lights on! We go from 1908 to Present Day.....on the same farm......1908 a little girl dies, Present Day a mom goes missing.......and, yes there is a connection. Jennifer McMahon has written incredible characters, an interesting story, and a closet is just not a closet anymore.