“Dark and richly atmospheric. . . A bewitching novel about love, lies, and the ghosts that never quite leave us alone.” –Bustle
Some secrets never stay buried
After a whirlwind romance, a young woman returns to the opulent, secluded Long Island mansion of her new fiancé Max Winter—a wealthy politician and recent widower—and a life of luxury she’s never known. But all is not as it appears at the Asherley estate. The house is steeped in the memory of Max’s beautiful first wife Rebekah, who haunts the young woman’s imagination and feeds her uncertainties, while his very alive teenage daughter Dani makes her life a living hell. She soon realizes there is no clear place for her in this twisted little family: Max and Dani circle each other like cats, a dynamic that both repels and fascinates her, and he harbors political ambitions with which he will allow no woman—alive or dead—to interfere.
As the soon-to-be second Mrs. Winter grows more in love with Max, and more afraid of Dani, she is drawn deeper into the family’s dark secrets—the kind of secrets that could kill her, too. The Winters is a riveting story about what happens when a family’s ghosts resurface and threaten to upend everything.
|Publisher:||Penguin Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.90(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.30(d)|
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Last night Rebekah tried to murder me again. It had been a while since I'd had that dream, not since we left Asherley, a place I called home for one winter and the bitterest part of spring, the dream only ever recurring when Max was gone and I'd find myself alone with Dani.
As always, the dream begins with Asherley in the distance, shining from afar in a bright clearing. There is no greenhouse, nor boathouse, just a stand of red canoes stabbed into the pebbly beach. In fact, the Asherley of my dream looks more like it might have back in its whaling days, when from the highest turret you could still spot tall ships dotting Gardiners Bay.
Overpowered by the urge to be inside the house again, I pass easily through the thicket of forest that surrounds the property. I want so badly to wander its wood-paneled halls, to feel its plush red carpets beneath my bare feet, to move my fingers in the play of sun through the stained-glass windows, but an invisible force keeps me out. I'm relegated to the bay, where I float like a sad specter, made to watch those who still haunt Asherley act out the same strange pantomime.
I can see Max, my Max, relaxing on an Adirondack, one in a line like white teeth dotting the silvery-green lawn. He's reading a newspaper, framed by the majestic spread of Asherley behind him, its walls of gray stones, its crowd of terra-cotta peaks, its dentils studded with carved rosettes, anchored by the heavy brow of its deep stone porch. Every lamp in every room of the house is lit. A fire roars in every fireplace. The circle of windows at the top of the high turret burns like a sentinel over the bay, as though the house were about to put on a great show for me.
I call for Max but he can't hear me. I want to go to him, to touch his face, to smell his hair, to fit my shoulder under his arm, our sides pressed together. My throat feels strangled with that longing.
On cue, she strides out the back door, carefully balancing a tray of lemonade. She's wearing a white lace dress with a red sash, her blond hair glinting in the sun, her face so eerily symmetrical she'd almost be odd-looking except for the singular perfection of each and every one of her features. Here is Rebekah making her way down to Max, changing her gait to accommodate the steep slope of the back lawn. Now Dani bolts from the house behind her, laughing, her chubby legs charging straight for the water and for me. She's three, maybe four, her hair, far too long for a child, is the same white blond as her mother's. I often wish I could have met Dani when she was this young and unformed. Things might have been very different between us.
My body instinctively thrusts forward to catch the girl, to prevent her from running too far into the bay and drowning.
Rebekah yells, "Be careful, sweetheart," which Max repeats. She puts the tray down. From behind, she wraps her arms around Max's shoulders and warmly kisses his neck. He places a reassuring hand on her forearm. They both watch as Dani splashes in the shallow water, screaming and laughing, calling, "Look at me, I can swim."
Then, as she always does in the dream, Rebekah becomes the only one who spots me bobbing in the bay, too near her daughter for her liking. She straightens up and walks towards the water, stalking me like a lion not wanting to disturb its prey. Still in her dress, she wades into the water, moving past a frolicking, oblivious Dani, until we are finally face-to-face. Her eyes narrow, forming that familiar dimple over her left brow.
I try to flee but my legs are useless.
"Who are you?" she asks. "You don't belong here."
Rebekah's mouth is close enough to kiss, a woman I'd seen in hundreds of photos, whose every contour I'd memorized, whose every expression I'd studied and sometimes unconsciously mimicked in my darker days, when my obsession was most acute and I had no idea how to live at Asherley, how to be a wife to Max, or a friend to Dani.
"I do belong here. She needs me," I say, pointing to Dani, my impudence surprising even me. I try to move but my feet are rooted in the sand below, arms floating beside me like weeds.
"She doesn't need you," Rebekah says, placing her hands on my shoulders in a reassuring manner. "She needs her mother."
Then she rears back slightly. Using all of her weight, Rebekah shoves me under the waves with a sudden violence, flooding my vision with air bubbles. I fight for the surface, to scream for Max to help me, but she's stronger than me, her hands a vise on my shoulders, her arms steely and rigid. In my dream, she's not angry. Rebekah kills me slowly and methodically, not with hate or fear. She's being practical. I am channeling vital resources away from her, rerouting Dani's feelings, altering Max's fate. My murder is conducted with dispassion and efficiency. And though I don't want to die, I can't imagine going on like this either, careful of my every move, looking over my shoulder, afraid to touch anything, break anything, love anything, worried his past will surface again and ruin what I've worked so hard for, what we've worked so hard for. Her task complete, my body painlessly dissolves into the waves and I disappear. I am dead and made of nothing. I am gone.
I woke up gasping for air, my hand at my throat. I kept reminding myself that everything is okay, we are okay, that we are alive and she is dead, cursing the fact that the dream had followed us here, our last stop, I hoped, for a good long while.
My back ached when I stretched that morning, unfamiliar beds the only downside to our decision to travel for the rest of the year to shake loose the recent tragedies. We found it helped to establish a routine. I would get up first and make us breakfast, for we only stayed in places with kitchens, a homemade meal the best way to start our wide-open days. We tried not to think too much about the past, about Asherley. It was gone, along with all of its secrets. We were building new memories, creating new stories, ones we might find ourselves telling new friends one day, finishing each otherÕs sentences, saying, No, you go, you tell it. No, you-you tell it better.
Mostly our days were languid; sometimes I'd plan a museum tour or we'd take a long drive past ruins. Our nights were spent reading rather than watching TV, sharing the couch even if armchairs were available, our toes gently touching. There were few conflicts, though I was no longer naive enough to believe two people as different as we were, who'd spent as much time together as we had, would never bicker. But the truth was we were still getting to know each other.
Waiting for the omelet to thicken, I poked my head into the bedroom, resisting the urge to caress that thatch of dark hair that I had come to love in a quiet, calm way, a marked difference from how I loved just a short while ago. Hard to believe it had been less than a year since I'd met Max Winter, a man whose love seized me by the shoulders and shook me out of a state of dormancy, and who ushered in another emotion I had yet to meet in my young life: jealousy, the kind that grows like kudzu, vining around the heart, squeezing all the air out, fusing with my thoughts and dreams, so that by the time I understood what was happening to me it was almost too late.
I carefully closed the bedroom door, padded across the cool tile floors of the living area, with its dark armoires and overstuffed armchairs, and threw open the musty blackout curtains. I stepped barefoot onto the hot stone terrace, the sun so bright it hurt my eyes. In the distance, warm air steamed off the sea. From below, I could hear the Spanish-speaking shopkeepers already arguing over sidewalk space, and I was gut-punched by long-ago memories of a mother who sang to me in her mother's language and a father with sunburned shoulders, pulling fish out of the sea, their silver bodies violently jackknifing on the scarred deck of the boat we once lived on, our sleeping quarters the size of the smallest pantry you could find at Asherley. I could have fainted from an old grief. Here they were again, coming at me from afar, watery mirages of the people who once loved me, and I them, their long shadows cast by a low morning sun.
Excerpted from "The Winters"
Copyright © 2018 Lisa Gabriele.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
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.
Reading Group Guide
1. The Winters has been described as a modern response to Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca. Have you read Rebecca? If yes, did that enhance your enjoyment of The Winters? How does The Winters stand on its own as a distinct work?
2. Lisa Gabriele has said that, in The Winters, she sought to examine shifting gender roles and norms since Rebecca’s publication. She has argued that men—in particular, powerful white men—have not changed as much as women have. Do you agree? How does The Winters illustrate this?
3. What role do the disparate settings of Rebecca and The Winters—1930s England and 2010s America—have in shaping the plot? How do the cultural forces at play differ between the books, and how are they the same?
4. The unnamed narrator says there was nothing about her that would suggest she was the type to fall for a man like Max Winter. What do you think she means by this? Do you agree with her?
5. The narrator gleans information about Rebekah’s life and death, as well as about Max and his daughter Dani, from her internet searches. How has the internet made it difficult to keep the past in the past? Do you think this is a good or bad thing?
6. Discuss the moment the narrator lays eyes on Asherley, Max’s estate and her new home. Why is this Cinderella trope—of a lower- or middle-class woman rescued by someone rich—so common in literature? Have you ever had this fantasy?
7. Dani and Max tell differing stories about what happened to Rebekah that night in the greenhouse. What makes Max easier to believe than Dani? In the narrator’s place, who would you believe and why? And, as a reader, how do you think Rebekah died?
8. Discuss the use of water as a symbol in The Winters. Why do you think this symbol recurs and what do you think it represents?
9. Early in the story, Louisa tells the narrator: “I can see what Max sees in you. . . . He brought you home for a reason.” Our narrator believes this reason is love. What do you think?
10. Revisit the opening scene of the book. Has your interpretation of this scene changed now that you’ve finished the novel? Does The Winters have a happy ending?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I have no clue what Rebecca by Daphne de Maurier is, other than it’s a book that Lisa Gabriele based The Winters on. That means I came into this story without knowing what the story would entail, where the story would go, and what I was reading. For me, this was a great thing. I started the book with an open mind, an excitement for what I was about to read, and an interest in learning whatever I can about the characters. Lisa Gabriele wrote a story that kept me reading, guessing, and wondering what was going to happen with Max Winters, his fiancé, and his daughter. The love story of Max and his fiancé was intriguing. Instantly I felt there was more to come for them, while I hoped for happiness I knew that it couldn’t be that easy. There were so many unknowns, so many twists, turns, ups and downs that I was kept on my toes. I loved that I was kept guessing and that I truly didn’t know what was going to happen until it actually happens. When Max returned home to the estate that he lived in with his dead wife and his teenage daughter I knew that there had to be more to come. Dani was a typical teenager as far as not being happy that her father met someone new and did the teenage things to make her not welcome in their lives. There was so much anticipation, the story was told little by little, with each dialogue I had to guess what wasn’t being told and what the truth was. The Winters is a psychological thriller that kept me turning page after page excited to see where this story would go next.
This book is MAGNFICIENT. I have read and loved Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, but you by no means need to have read the classic version to love this reimagining of the tale. Lisa Gabriele does amazing work twisting a classic story of suspense around characters set in the present day without losing the dark gothic feel of the original plot. After a whirlwind romance, a young woman finds herself moving into the opulent mansion of her new fiancé, Max Winter, a state senator with a troubled teenage daughter. This new life of luxury comes with a cost however, as she finds herself haunted at every turn by the ghost of Max's first wife, Rebekah, a woman so stunning, poised and capable, that it seems impossible her tragic death could have happened at all. Trying desperately to find her place within this new family, the soon to be second Mrs. Winters finds herself digging up old secrets that were never meant to be found. I was literally unable to set this book down, and read well into the night to see where Lisa took the story - which is saying a lot as someone who is well versed in the original version of this. The work done to create a tense and unrelenting atmosphere makes the Asherley estate as much of a character to this story as the humans themselves. I loved the complexity of the characters and the fact that Lisa made it impossible to nail anyone of them down - you could suspect all you wanted but you were never quite sure who was telling the truth and who was playing an increasingly dangerous game of cat and mouse. If you are looking for something suspenseful this fall, that will keep the pages turning and the guesses coming, then this is the book for you!
A young woman living and working in the Cayman Island at a boatyard works very hard until she meets an older man. They boat, eat, drink and eventually fall in love. He offers to take her to his home in America on Long Island, the fancy place he calls home, called Asherley. He’s a Senator who’s thinking of running for a higher place in government. In fact, he’s very, very busy and out of the home more than he’s there. So, this woman meets his daughter, Dani who greatly resents Max’s fiancé because Dani is taking her mother, Rebekah’s place. Dani is one nasty piece of work. Sweet one minute, Dani can manipulate her father, her Aunt Louise, and even the new gal who is engaged to her father Max. Dani runs around with the family chauffeur/helper, takes off when she pleases, runs away as she did to Paris before Max came home. The fiancée almost leaves once when she can’t stand what is happening. But then things seem to be on the mend after they are planning a wedding. The young woman is trying to learn the ropes about a home where the ghost of Rebekah lurks in every corner. Now begins the mystery. No spoilers here! This is indeed a take on Daphne Du Maurier’s earlier novel, Rebecca. Secrets abound about Dani’s background, Rebekah’s death, another woman and money, the latter being the root of what eventually results in disaster. Still Max marries our young heroine, but she also reveals she’s made of tough stuff and is smart enough to figure out when all these clues are slowly revealed in layers. The first half of the novel is one the reader thinks he or she knows; but one can’t possibly figure out what is to follow. The rest of the plot proceeds at a ripping, tense and furious pace until a very pleasing end. This is a highly enjoyable romance/thriller novel that is sure to rivet the attention of every reader. The background ghosts are within each character, not external. Mistakes made in the past accelerate to a point where they cannot be undone so enthralled is each player with trying to make things better. Enjoy the romp in contemporary Gothic horror!
I wouldn't say there is anything significantly wrong with this book. I guess my main issue is it didn't feel like it was something new and different. Supposedly this is a modern day re-telling of Rebecca. I haven't read the book but enjoyed the Alfred Hitchcock movie when I saw it years ago. There have been so many adaptations or re-tellings throughout the years that this one just blends in with the rest of them and doesn't stand out. I wish this could have been more than just an average read. Thank you to First to Read for the opportunity to read an advance digital copy! I was under no obligation to post a review and all views expressed are my honest opinion.