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Don't Breathe a Word: A Novel Paperback – May 17, 2011

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Original edition (May 17, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061689378
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061689376
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (277 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #202,005 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Family secrets and fairy lore create a shifting reality in McMahon's unsettling novel about the disappearance of a 12-year-old girl who longed to become Queen of the Fairies. Fifteen years after Lisa goes missing, her younger brother, Sam, gets a strange phone call that leads him and his girlfriend, Phoebe, to discover a book, supposedly written by the King of the Fairies, that Lisa used as her bible to cross over, and which prompts Sam and Phoebe to meet up with Sam's cousin, Evie, to see if they can figure out what happened to Lisa. Nothing is as it seems from that moment on, and Phoebe's longtime fear of a dark man in the shadows seeps back after she discovers, in true woo-woo fashion, that she is pregnant. McMahon (Promise Not to Tell) alternates between the past and present with loads of portent and foreshadowing, creating a rural Vermont chiller with a Rosemary's Baby vibe, but even after a surprising villainess emerges and more than a few disquieting passages about Lisa are burned through, many readers will remain in the dark. (May)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


“Beautifully written and spooky, Don’t Breathe a Word wraps around you and pulls you into a dark world of fairies and family secrets.” (Chevy Stevens, New York Times bestselling author of Still Missing)

“Jennifer McMahon never flinches and never fails to surprise as her stories twist down unexpected roads. Don’t Breathe a Word balances love and horror as McMahon weaves a young couple into a perverse fairyland where Rosemary’s Baby could be at home.” (Randy Susan Meyers, author of The Murderer's Daughters)

“Jennifer McMahon’s novels are like the perfect winter truffle: dark, rich, earthy, and an absolute, decadent pleasure. Don’t Breathe a Word is a haunting page-turner that kept me up, spine shivering and enthralled, way past my bedtime.” (Joshilyn Jackson, NYT bestselling author of Gods in Alabama and Backseat Saints)

“[A] strange and unsettling shocker ... With the tale’s outcome utterly unforeseeable even as it races along, “Don’t Breathe a Word” leaves you breathless.” (Wall Street Journal)

More About the Author

I was born in 1968 and grew up in my grandmother's house in suburban Connecticut, where I was convinced a ghost named Virgil lived in the attic. I wrote my first short story in third grade. I graduated with a BA from Goddard College in 1991 and then studied poetry for a year in the MFA in Writing Program at Vermont College. A poem turned into a story, which turned into a novel, and I decided to take some time to think about whether I wanted to write poetry or fiction. After bouncing around the country, I wound up back in Vermont, living in a cabin with no electricity, running water, or phone with my partner, Drea, while we built our own house. Over the years, I have been a house painter, farm worker, paste-up artist, Easter Bunny, pizza delivery person, homeless shelter staff member, and counselor for adults and kids with mental illness -- I quit my last real job in 2000 to work on writing full time. In 2004, I gave birth to our daughter, Zella. These days, we're living in an old Victorian in Montpelier, Vermont. Some neighbors think it looks like the Addams family house, which brings me immense pleasure.

Customer Reviews

Certain character story lines just are left dangling and the very end really disgusted me.
I rate it 4 out of 5 stars because I REALLY did like it, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and the further along I got the harder it was to put it down.
H. Erickson-Sander
The book was well written, the characters were very real, the story kept you guessing and it grabbed my attention from the beginning.
Jennifer Cannestro

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

63 of 65 people found the following review helpful By Celestialsky29 VINE VOICE on April 1, 2011
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This book is bizarre, in so many ways. The events that unfold don't make sense in the reality world. This is what made it so insanely intriguing.

This book was nothing like what I expected. I expected it to be a happy little story about some little girls fantasy world. Oh no, its not even close. This book has twists and turns, and then there are twists on top of the turns. Just when you think it couldn't get any weirder, it does. Nothing is what is expected.

The chapters alternate between Lisa (the little girl) 15 years prior, and Phoebe (her brothers girlfriend) exactly 15 years later to the date. Some of the chapters have great cliffhangers, and I found myself skipping forward to find out what happened. The reader is left in the dark when it comes to the mystery, and so are the main characters in this book. I think this is what makes it even more suspenseful.
Be warned, there are some disturbing elements in this story. I can't reveal certain parts of the story or it will ruin the mystery that is built up as the story progresses. Posting spoilers about this book would be doing the reader a huge disservice and would completely ruin the mystery of this book.

I had a very difficult time putting this book down. I read it slowly, so I could absorb all of the details, but I wanted to fly through it because I was dying to find out how it ended. If you are looking for a book that takes you down a path that you never expected, is so bizarre it doesn't make sense, makes you think and then think again and entertains you from page 1 to page 447, then I would highly recommend this book!
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30 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Lydia on May 20, 2011
Format: Paperback
Hello creepy fairy story.

This book is a thriller, no doubt about it. It had all the elements of a creepy, spine-tingling terror, mixed with dark fantasy, mixed with just... strange family stuff that makes up the perfect page-turner.

Don't Breathe a Word alternates between Lisa, 15 years before the present time, and Phoebe, in present time. Lisa and Phoebe have a connection in that Phoebe had heard about Lisa's disappearance and visited the house where Lisa lived, and while she was there she glimpsed Sam, her current partner.

Phoebe's been through her tough knocks, but that's nothing compared to the family that Sam comes from. Filled with strange characters from Evie to his Aunt Hazel and his own parents, this story went from dark and spooky to incredibly creepy and twisted in a hurry.

I have one real complaint however, and it tends to be a common complaint with these types of books. The climax is carefully worked toward in the first 75% of the book and it felt like the last 25% was just a haphazard rush of trying to spring the "TADA" on the reader all at once. There was so much happening, so much that didn't make a lot of sense and I'd have to go back and read it two or three times to understand the impact it was supposed to have. I'm still not quite clear on a few things as well, which makes the resolution difficult. I just would have hoped for a more clear explanation, or the same care taken to give it as was taken to build the story up to it.

I'm definitely interested in checking out more of Jennifer McMahon's books, however. I love getting caught up in a thriller and am always on the lookout for authors who craft an interesting story.
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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Tiffany A. Harkleroad VINE VOICE on June 6, 2011
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
When they were children, Sam's sister Lisa disappeared. She told everyone she was crossing over to the world of the fairies, and would meet the Fairy King. Everyone figured she was kidnapped, or worse. Fifteen years later, odd things begin happening to indicate Lisa was returning to her family. But the more Sam and his girlfriend Phoebe get involved in uncovering Lisa's whereabouts, the more bizarre the situation becomes. What really happened to Lisa, and do fairies really exist?

It is rare that I judge a book by its cover, but I could not help but be spellbound by the cover of this book. The cover is what made me read this book, and the story was equally spellbinding. In terms of the storyline, I thought the book was incredible, with the possibility of a magical fairy world always looming, but being more sinister than we know. It reminded me a lot of Tyger, Tyger, but I liked this book so much better. I felt the back story was told much better, and while suspenseful, not at all confusing.

I loved the way the narrative switched with each chapter, so that both the stories of Lisa's childhood and the present unfolded simultaneously. It was like watching two mysteries unfold into one giant reveal at the end. Only, at the end, you are still not sure what you believe.

The book was the kind that I could not put down. It was not a challenging read, and before I would realize it, I had read 80 pages. I just could not stop until I learned the truth. And I love that we are never quite certain what the truth actually is. While aimed at adults, the paranormal themes may also appeal to high school readers. And while some themes are a little dark, there is really nothing graphic that would make it unsuitable for that audience. All in all, a great book, one that I can see myself reading more than once.
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