Book Review: THE WINTER PEOPLE by Jennifer McMahon

Publisher: Doubleday
Release Date: February 11, 2014
Source: Review copy from the Amazon Vine Program
Rating: ★★★¾

The 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.

THE WINTER PEOPLE is a chilling tale that gave me a heavy case of the creeps. At one point while reading this after dark, I had to shut and lock the porch door! The story begins with the mysterious disappearance of a woman named Alice on a remote, off the grid Vermont farm. As her worried daughters Ruthie and Fawn search for her, they find the diary of Sara Harrison Shea, a grief-stricken mother who lived in their house and was murdered on their farm a hundred years earlier.

The story alternates between the present and the past, and between the point of view of different characters. Ruthie and Fawn uncover clues hidden in the secret nooks and crannies of their home that they hope will lead them to their mother. The tragedy that happened on the farm in the past is revealed through the pages of Sara’s diary and the eyes of her husband, Martin. I enjoy books with dual time periods, and I liked how this author weaved everything together.

As a fan of spooky Gothic fiction, there was much for me to like about this book. The author created the perfect eerie atmosphere with the bleak winter setting and isolated farmhouse. It was fun trying to put together the pieces of the puzzle as new clues were revealed. The pacing was a bit slow in spots, but overall this was a suspenseful read that kept me turning the pages. The one thing I didn’t especially care for was the ending. I thought one character in particular got a raw deal, and I wished it would have wrapped up differently.

THE WINTER PEOPLE was an intriguing mystery and spooky folktale in one. It’s about the powerful bond between mother and child, and the clearly wrong choices people will make when grief overtakes them. This isn’t exactly a ghost story – you’ll have to read it to find out why.

Rating: 3.75 Stars

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book through the Amazon Vine Program in exchange for an honest review.