Review: The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon

18007539The New York Times bestselling author of Promise Not to Tell returns with a simmering literary thriller about ghostly secrets, dark choices, and the unbreakable bond between mothers and daughters . . . sometimes too unbreakable.
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, Gertie. Now, in present day, nineteen-year-old Ruthie lives in Sara’s farmhouse with her mother, Alice, and her younger sister, Fawn. Alice has always insisted that they live off the grid, a decision that suddenly proves perilous when Ruthie wakes up one morning to find that Alice has vanished without a trace. Searching 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 deeper into the mystery of Sara’s fate, she discovers that she’s not the only person who’s desperately looking for someone that they’ve lost. But she may be the only one who can stop history from repeating itself.” – Publisher Summary

When I was in Eighth Grade, I read the novel Pet Sematary by Stephen King. I was basically terrified beyond belief and slept with my lights on for two weeks (don’t even talk to me about The Shining or, God forbid, It!). Upon completing my perusal of King’s dead/undead-pet novel, I had come to a definite conclusion:

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I could have used a little warning that upon reading The Winter People by  Jennifer McMahon, I would be heading back into creepy reanimated dead people territory. Oh, sorry, was that a spoiler? Whoops. But I feel a duty to forewarn those such as myself. Because, you see, since I went through my Stephen King phase in middle school, I just don’t do supernatural creepy. Unfortunately, that is just what I got with this particular novel.

Now, don’t get me wrong. McMahon managed to write a compelling and descriptive novel that somehow keeps a balance between creepy and horrifying, as well as attempts to remain borderline with appearing to be believable (although it falls short of that last goal, of course). McMahon does somewhat successfully weave together the narratives of several different people hailing from the small town of West Hall, Vermont, ranging in time from 1908 to the present day.

The strongest vein of emotion running through this tale is that of grief, a grief so great that it drives people to work against the laws of nature and seek assistance from supernatural – and possibly dark – powers. Grief can be a palpable thing, but it is how these characters choose to deal with it that leads to unforeseen circumstances that only bring more tragedy to their lives.

As creepy goes, y’all, this is about as much as I can take. If you’re on the lower end of the creepy scale, as well, then The Winter People is definitely a book you might be able to handle. As for the rest of you, line on up – this is for you! Good reads (even creepy ones) can be hard to come by – and you just can’t say no to a good read like this.

The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon is available now at a bookseller near you.. Buy it, read it… Try not to be afraid of the dark.

3.5 out of 5

Source: Doubleday Books {via NetGalley}

 

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