The Night Sister: A Novel

The Night Sister: A Novel

by Jennifer McMahon


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780385538510
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 08/04/2015
Pages: 336
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 9.30(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

JENNIFER McMAHON is the author of seven novels, including the New York Times best-sellers Promise Not to Tell and The Winter People. She graduated from Goddard College and studied poetry in the MFA Writing Program at Vermont College.

From the Hardcover edition.

Read an Excerpt

Amy’s heart hammers, and her skin is slick with sweat.

Focus, she tells herself. 

Don’t think about the thing in the tower. 

Amy knows that if she thinks too hard about it, she won’t be able to do what needs to be done. 

She looks down at the photo, the old black-and-white print she’s kept for almost thirty years, hidden away in the drawer of her bedside table.  It’s been handled so much that it’s cracked and faded, one of the corners torn.   
In it, her mother, Rose, and her Aunt Sylvie are young girls, wearing crisp summer dresses as they stand in front of a sign that says World Famous London Chicken Circus.  Each girl clutches a worried-looking hen, but that’s where the similarities end. Amy’s mother is wearing a scowl beneath tired eyes, her hair dark and unkempt, while Sylvie is radiant, the one who was going to grow up and go to Hollywood. Her blond hair is movie-star perfect, her eyes shining.

Someone had scrawled a date on the back: June, 1955. If only Amy could travel back in time, talk to those two girls, warn them what was coming.  Warn them that one day, it would all lead to this moment: Amy alone and out of options, on the verge of doing something terrible.

She bites her lip and wonders what people will say about her once she’s gone.  

That she was broken inside, a woman with a screw loose (Aren’t all women like that, really?  Little time bombs waiting? Especially women like her—surviving on monthly boxes from the food pantry, dressing her children in ragged, second-hand clothes that never quite fit.) 

What went wrong? they will whisper to each other while fondling artichokes and avocados in the produce aisle of the grocery store.       

What kind of monster was she? they might ask after a few glasses of wine as they sit in tidy living rooms, gathered for book club.  

But these people know nothing of true monsters.  They will never have to make the choices Amy has made.

The fluorescent lights in the kitchen buzz and flicker.  Amy takes a deep breath, looks out the kitchen window. Beyond the gravel driveway, past the two ruined motel buildings with their sagging, swaybacked roofs, the tower leans precariously.  Made of cement and stone, it was built by her grandfather all those years ago as a gift for her grandmother Charlotte.  Her own Tower of London.

Amy thinks, as she often does, of that long ago summer when she was twelve.  Of Piper and Margot and the day they found the suitcase; of how after that, nothing was ever the same. 

Where was Piper now?  Out in California somewhere, surrounded by palm trees and glamorous people, living a life Amy couldn’t even imagine.  Amy suddenly longs to talk to her, to confide in her and ask for forgiveness, to say, “Don’t you see this is what I have to do?”

She thinks that Piper and Margot might understand if she could tell them the whole story, starting with the suitcase and working forward.

But mostly, what she wishes, is that she could find a way to warn them. 

She glances at the old photo in her hand, takes a black marker from a kitchen drawer, and hastily writes a message along the bottom, over the chickens and patterned summer dresses. Then she tucks the photograph into her back pocket and goes to the window.

The clock on the stove says 12:15 am.  

Down at the tower, a shadow lurches from the open doorway. 

She’s out of time. 

Moving into the hallway, she latches the deadbolt on the front door (silly, really—a locked door will do no good), then stops at the closet and grabs her grandfather’s old Winchester.  Rifle in hand, she climbs the stairs, the same stairs she’s climbed her whole life.  She thinks she can hear young Piper and Margot following behind her, whispering, warning her, telling her—as they did all those years ago—to forget all about it, that there is no 29th room. 
Amy takes each step slowly, willing herself not to run, to stay calm and not wake her family.  What would Mark think if he woke up and found his wife creeping up the steps with a gun?  Poor, sweet, clueless Mark—perhaps she should have told him the motel’s secrets?  But no.  It was better to protect him from it all as best she could.

The scarred wood beneath her feet creaks and she thinks of the rhyme her grandmother taught her: 
When Death comes knocking on your door, you’ll think you’ve seen his face before.
When he comes creeping up your stairs, you’ll know him from your dark nightmares.
And if you hold up a mirror, you shall see,
That he is you and you are he.

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The Night Sister: A Novel 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 21 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
You wont be sorry if you buy this book, i couldnt put it down!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love the plot. I think it would make a fantastic movie. I highly recommend it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I bought this on a whim and practically stayed up all night to read it. I would think it would turn out one way and then it would go another. A great puzzle to figure out. Definitely worth reading if you like to check under the bed for monsters. Highly recommended!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The newest Jennifer McMahon book has the requisite teens and tweens that she does so weli, as well as a healthy dose of things that go bump (and growl, claw and shape shift) well into the night. The Tower is a character unto itself snd the letters to Alfred Hitchcock a whimsical touch. The mare was a bit predictible, telegraphed but enjoyable nonetheless.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Keeps you wanting to turn the page.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Blends folklore with the perfect setting to create an unsettling tale of what it means to make sacrifices...
Deb-Krenzer More than 1 year ago
You've got secrets, lies, mysteries and ghosts too? This was a GREAT book!!! I am definitely glad I was reading it during the day. I wish I could say the best parts of this book without spoiling it for you. This is like nothing I've ever read before. And while, I'm getting a little tired of that genre, this book has just the right amount. There is absolutely no way you could figure this one out. It's a one of a kind. Especially since you don't see the different genre being mixed up in this at all. It was definitely a nice surprise from your ordinary thrillers. I, without a doubt, highly recommend this book. I'm definitely sure it will be on my top 12 for 2015!!! Thanks Doubleday and Net Galley for providing me with this free e-galley in exchange for an honest review.
Anonymous 19 days ago
Fast paced with the change of perspectives. Loved past to present jumps and all the little mysteries connected!
Sandy5 More than 1 year ago
I have read The Winter People by this author and I wanted to read more of her work, so I picked up this novel. I liked the mysterious elements of this novel and I liked the voices of the characters. One mystery dealt with where Sylvie was and the other mystery materialized the night that Amy and her family died. This novel centered on a hotel that had a tower constructed beside it, a replica of The Tower of London. I kept picturing The Bates Hotel with a tower, as I read this novel as there was this creepy and shadowy element to the happening surrounding the hotel and the family that ran the hotel, they felt unusual and dark. I liked the characters as they were a diverse bunch. It seemed that some individuals wanted to hide the past, they never wanted to look back while others were trying to uncover the details as the puzzles transpired. I wanted to feel empathy as events arose, but I hesitated for I felt that I didn’t know who was truly involved, how involved they were and the true story that would accompany that event. The story pops between a few different time periods but the stories all comes together in the end, the characters aging in the process and new individuals being introduced. It wasn’t so much a sitting-at-the- end-of-my-seat read for me but there was that anticipation of what would transpire as I read, who was involved in the events and what the outcome was. I enjoy reading Jennifer McMahon’s novels and I am looking forward to the next one.
AlwaysReadingDC More than 1 year ago
After reading this book, I'll definitely be looking at others by this author. Loved the plot. A great blend of mystery and supernatural.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
this was the most ridiculous book I've read in a long time
NookGirl78 More than 1 year ago
The pages of my book are nice and worn from sharing this one with my friends. I couldn't put it down and finished it in just three days. A suspenseful story of a family with dark secrets threatening to come to the surface. Friends feeding their childlike curiosity in an abandoned hotel, what could go wrong? When the hidden treasures lead them to more stories of mysterious missing family members and frightening secrets what more do you need?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I found this writer recently in an airport when I bought Winter People. Very intriguing! I decided to follow with this one and also was not disappointed. I love the back and forth with characters and timelines, leaving a good amount of mystery to be had until the end. It kept me reading late into the night. I look forward to reading more of her stories!
KimHeniadis More than 1 year ago
Another fantastic book by Jennifer McMahon! I read The Winter People by her (read review here) and really enjoyed it, so I was excited to read this one for book club. There was a perfect amount of mystery, thriller and supernatural elements in this book. McMahon is a master at writing books that jump around different time periods. In this one there are four; 1955, 1961, 1989, and 2013. For each time period she is spot on with the various details including clothing and expressions. It is very apparent when the times shift, unlike some books where you have to really puzzle it out. There are so many questions that revolve around the mystery of the book, but McMahon keeps the tension high while answering them, and still give you a break from time to time so you can catch your breath. For me the supernatural elements were not so scary that you want to keep all the lights on, but added just enough creepiness to keep the thrills coming. I also really enjoyed how she added in the letters to Alfred Hitchcock, and included the real life event of him coming to the town for an opening of a film. I wasn’t surprised at the ending because I thought it was going to go that way about halfway into the book, but I wanted to keep reading to see how all the pieces fit together. And I was still surprised with a couple of the details. If you enjoy supernatural thrillers or mysteries, I highly recommend this one, as well as The Winter People.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Horrible. Could not finish the book. Not what I would call entertaining.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Theresa_Raymer More than 1 year ago
The Night Sister was a wonderful mystery/thriller. It was written with the same Characters through out the book. We also get to read about 4 different time era's that jump back and fourth from 1955, 1961, 1989 and the year 2013. Everyone of us carries around family secretes but none like we find in The Night Sister. Pick up this book read it and you will find that you will enjoy the wonderful writing by Jennifer McMahon.
JeannieWalker More than 1 year ago
This is a suspenseful paranormal mystery. I really liked how Silvie wrote a letter to Hitchock regarding the story he did about the old roadside motel where strange things happened. I think we all remember that one. As for me, I still don’t like taking showers at night. Anyway, Silvie wanted to know if Hitchcock got that idea from her... Strange things do sometimes happen, and sometimes there are no logical explanations as to what or how it happens. I believe we have a lot of paranormal activity going on...sometimes we know about it and sometimes we don’t have the slightest idea it is happening. But, the ones who have experienced paranormal activities know there is more to this world than what meets the eye. Why not give this novel a whirl? Jeannie Walker (Award-Winning Author) "Fighting the Devil" - A True Story of Consuming Passion, Deadly Poison,and Murder
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
KrisAnderson_TAR More than 1 year ago
I just finished reading The Night Sister by Jennifer McMahon. Amy grew up in the Tower Motel. It was closed in 1971 after a highway was built that diverted traffic from London, Vermont. One of the attractions was a tower (made of stone) their grandfather built for their grandmother who came from London, England. It is now in bad shape and should be torn down. Jason Hawke grew up with Amy (had a big crush on her). He is now married to Margot and they are expecting their first child. Jason is an officer with the London Police Department. He is going off duty when he hears a call out to the Tower Motel. When he arrives, he finds a very bloody and disturbing scene. Amy, her husband, Mark, and their son, Levi are all dead. The only survivor is their daughter, Lou (who climbed out onto the roof with her bloody feet). Margot is confined to bed and asks Piper to investigate what happened to Amy’s family. The book is told from the perspective of Rose, Piper, and Jason. It jumps from 2013 (present day) to 1955, 1961, and 1989 (which makes it jumbled and confusing). Sylvia and Rose are sisters (1955 and 1961). Sylvia is the golden girl. She dreams of being an actress and she writes odd letters to Alfred Hitchcock (which Rose steals out of mailbox). She disappears in October the year of her eighteenth year and is never heard from again. Amy, Margot, and Piper (Margot and Piper are sisters) find her suitcase buried in the floor of the tower their grandfather built. They start looking for more information and find her typewriter. Inside is another letter to Alfred Hitchcock which mentions a secret 29th room at the motel. The girls are curious and start investigating Sylvia and the mysterious room. Where could the 29th room be? Amy is a strange girl. Raised by her grandmother after her mother, Rose takes off (has issues). When Rose was little her Oma came over for a visit from England. Oma would tell Rose stories about mares. Rose believes her Oma’s stories about mares. Humans that can transform into animals. Rose thinks that Sylvia is a mare and keeps watching her over the years. She wants to catch Sylvia in the act of transforming. Is there such a thing as mares? What happened to Sylvia Slater? Did Amy kill her family and herself? The Night Sister tells the story about the two investigations and what happened to the family. I found the novel extremely strange (sad, but true). A paranormal element was added at the end which actually made the story worse. I think the novel would have been better off it had just been a mystery. It is confusing to read as the book jumps all around. It does come together in the end, but I did not especially like the ending. I give The Night Sister 2 out of 5 stars. The idea is intriguing, but I found the execution of the idea lacking. The writing is just lack luster. I never got drawn into the story because it was going to different years and different characters. Unfortunately, The Night Sister was just not for me. If I use one word to describe this book it would be weird! I received a complimentary copy of The Night Sister from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The review and opinions expressed are my own.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago