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The Winter People: A Novel Hardcover – February 11, 2014


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; First Edition edition (February 11, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385538499
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385538497
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.6 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (358 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #23,106 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* After a night of partying, 19-year-old Ruthie awakens to a world of impossibilities: her mother, an off-the-grid hippie who rarely leaves their Vermont farm, is missing, and Ruthie is left to care for her young sister. Ruthie desperately searches their old farmhouse for clues and uncovers a hidden compartment in her mother’s room filled with frightening artifacts: a pair of strangers’ wallets, a loaded gun, and a book entitled Visitors from the Other Side: The Secret Diary of Sara Harrison Shea. The diary reveals a 100-year-old mystery lending credence to the campfire tales about their farm, the nearby Devils’ Hand rock formation, locals who have gone missing, and her mother’s warnings that bad things happen in their woods. Ruthie begins tracking her mother with the information in the wallets and soon finds links between the diary’s horrors and her mother’s disappearance. McMahon has developed a subgenre of psychological mysteries that pit female characters with humanizing strengths and vulnerabilities against old secrets posing present dangers, forcing them to confront mystery and legend in creepily seductive settings. This mystery-horror crossover is haunting, evocative, and horrifically beautiful, a triumph that shares good literary company with Karen Novak’s Five Mile House (2000), Tananarive Due’s The Good House (2003), Diane Setterfield’s The Thirteenth Tale (2006), and Robert McCammon’s Speaks the Nightbird (2007). --Christine Tran

Review

"One of the year’s most chilling novels. She melds the mystery genre with the supernatural for a psychological thriller that is as scary as it is enthralling." —The Miami Herald

“Jennifer McMahon is a writer of exceptional talent, and The Winter People is a hypnotic, gripping and deeply moving thriller. With her beautifully drawn characters and complex, layered, and suspenseful story, McMahon has woven a dream from which I didn't want to wake—and couldn't have even if I wanted to.” —Lisa Unger, author of In the Blood 

"Crisp, mysterious and scary.... The Winter People has a consistently eerie atmosphere, and some of its darker supernatural flights are reminiscent of Stephen King." —USA Today

“I don't believe in ghosts. At least that’s what I kept telling myself as I read The Winter People. I also don't need to sleep with the lights on. I told myself that, too. But I was whistling past a graveyard—or, in this case—past a Vermont landscape that is authentic and recognizable and still altogether chilling. The Winter People is terrifying—everything you could want in a classic ghost story.” —Chris Bohjalian, author of The Light in the Ruins

"A fascinatingly creepy tale. The historical foundation and the modern mystery blend together seamlessly, making the reader eager to find out the secrets Sara Harrison Shea might have known, while the exploration of mother-daughter love and loss makes both Sara's and Ruthie's narratives irresistible. Not a book to be read late at night, or in a creaky old house, The Winter People is a literary thriller to savor." —Shelf Awareness 


"A ghost story that is ... all too human.... A hauntingly beautiful read." --Oprah.com 

 
“In an edge-of-your-seat scary ghost story, Jennifer McMahon’s The Winter People yanks you from one page to the next by expertly weaving the past and present. I will never look at the woods behind my home in the same way again!” —Heather Gudenkauf, author of The Weight of Silence 

 
“A deliciously terrifying glimpse into a ghostly world that will haunt you long after you’ve finished the last page. Jennifer McMahon knows how to conjure your darkest fears and nightmares, while entertaining you with a clever, twisty plot that winds around and around, pulling you deep into the forbidden, secret world of The Winter People.” —Chevy Stevens, author of Always Watching
 
“This is not a book that will sit unread on anyone’s bedside table for very long. Open the first few pages and you are swept into a swift, dark current of unfolding events that will hold you enthralled. Much more than a spooky mystery of murder and mayhem, The Winter People blends the anguish of loss and the yearning for connection into one great story, well told.”  —Kate Alcott, author of The Dressmaker

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

51 of 55 people found the following review helpful By Cheryl Stout TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 3, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
It's been quite a few years since a "ghost" story caused goosebumps to raise on my arms. I think the last story that did this was Ghost Story by Peter Straub so it WAS a few years ago.

"The Winter People" is the perfect blend of shivers, mystery, thriller and just plain old good storytelling.

The story is told in various vignettes, during different time periods, and by different characters. At first this is a little difficult to keep up with but the rhythm of the tale soon takes over and the story takes on a life of its own and soon I was flipping the pages quickly, galumphing through the story and trying to figure out all the mysteries of the spectral beings and the not-so-ghostly ones.

Fast paced with well-rounded characters, I enjoyed this eerie tale and will be looking for others by author McMahon.
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60 of 69 people found the following review helpful By delicateflower152 TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 11, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This admonition repeats throughout Jennifer McMahon's novel, "The Winter People". A thriller/mystery that incorporates supernatural elements, this book is the best type of dark story - the events are improbable, but still the reader wonders if they just might be possible. The longing to "speak with the dead", to see an individual one last time, and to conquer death provide the impetus for the characters' actions. The overwhelming, obsessive love of a mother for a long-desired child also provides a motive for events. Further, McMahon incorporates the reader's childhood and adult fears - abandonment by parents; the death of a beloved child or spouse; and unexplained nighttime shadows and noises - to produce this gripping story.

Spanning a period between 1908 and the present, the narrative of the "The Winter People" is primarily presented in the third person. Only the secret diary of one individual - Sara Harrison Shea - is written in the first person. That diary provides the cohesive element that ties the different eras and characters together. It also personalizes the story and gives it more a authentic tone. Throughout "The Winter People" and as more information from this diary is revealed, the mystery deepens until the unexpected ending that shocks the reader and evokes sympathy for characters psychologically caught in the grip of the "sleepers" or charged with protecting others from a more horrific fate.

When reading "The Winter People", individuals should be patient. The events and action in this novel are not the type that hit the reader immediately. Rather, Jennifer McMahon builds the tension slowly as the characters continue to discover more of the pages of Sara Harrison Shea's diary.
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34 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Jane Easterly on February 14, 2014
Format: Hardcover
The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon is set in a Vermont town of "strange disappearances and old legends." Key to the plot is a mysterious structure known as the Devil's Hand. ("The Devil's Hand, people called it, the ledge of rock that stuck up out of the ground like a giant hand, fingers rising from the earth. Haunted land, people said. A place where monsters dwelled." p. 21)

I wanted to like this book more than I did. It is very readable, but I was put off by some plot points meant to confuse the issue that were never explained to my satisfaction. The text is nicely atmospheric and the mystery imaginative. There are some nice character touches; I particularly liked Katherine and her dioramas.

The book contains chapters from a secret diary written in 1908 by Sara (as edited by the author's niece years later and which is known to be missing key pages), chapters narrated in the third person with Sara's husband as the central figure, and chapters narrated by their small daughter Gertie. The 1908 sections alternate with sections set in the present day that are told in the third person about Ruthie, a teenager who lives on the same property as the family from 1908, and Katherine, a recent widow who discovers her husband was killed in a car crash after visiting that property. There are also chapters narrated by Sara in the first person and a letter written in 1886. All of the point of view changing was a little off putting. I wouldn't have minded so much if the diary sections were the only ones told in first person, or even if all of Sara's sections were the only ones told in first person. Also, the framework of an editor of a secret diary didn't really work for me, since the whole book was not told in diary format.
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47 of 55 people found the following review helpful By lb136 VINE VOICE on January 15, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
In “The Winter People” (and we don’t find out the reason for the title until the book is nearly done), Jennifer McMahon spins a tale of horror, madness, and decay over two eras, with a tangled cast of desperate characters.

Chilly, morose, humorless (you might want to call it neo-Lovecraftian—the style is very different but the swirling mad terror is the same) it follows characters who are desperately seeking answers to murders, mayhem, arson, and disappearances.

The central point is the undead child Gertie, a “Walker” (think Golem, or Zombie with a touch of vampirism), who is brought back from dead by her mother Sara (she writes a journal about the whole think, and that turns out to be the McGuffin). She accomplishes this thanks to the secrets of a witch-woman and the child proceeds to wreak havoc both in 1908, and in the present day (the tale shuttles back and forth between the two eras—an old McMahon technique that she uses in almost all her books). In the present a new family occupies Sara's old house and . . . umm, but best not spoil.

If the above seems like a warning (and maybe it is), it’s also a rave. If you can stand all dying, all the blood and fire, and all the seeking, you’ll enjoy a tale artfully conceived and brilliantly written. If it all seems too much for you, I understand your reluctance. So all in all, I’ll just say: “recommended for some.” And presumably the “somes” know who they are.
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