Reviews for Winter People

Booklist Reviews 2013 December #2
*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). Copyright 2013 Booklist Reviews.

BookPage Reviews 2014 February
Let sleeping daughters lie

BookPage Fiction Top Pick, February 2014

“The first time I saw a sleeper, I was nine years old.” Best-selling author Jennifer McMahon (Promise Not to Tell) opens her new novel, The Winter People, with a sentence that offers a tantalizing glimpse of the horrors to come in this marvelously creepy page-turner. 

Set in on a rural farm in West Hall, Vermont, this multigenerational paranormal tale alternates between the early 19th century and the present. In 1908, Sara Harrison Shea and her husband, Martin, are blessed with a little girl, Gertie, after many years of failed pregnancies and loss. Sadly, Gertie perishes in a terrible accident, and Sara seems to be out of her mind with grief. She believes that Gertie is still with her, appearing in strange places, whispering to her, even holding her hand—that is, up until her own untimely death.

More than 100 years later, Ruthie and her sister, Fawn, are living in Sara’s farmhouse with their mother, Alice. One morning, Alice is gone without a trace, and Ruthie and Fawn stumble upon Sara’s diary while searching for clues about their mother’s disappearance. It gradually becomes clear that Alice’s disappearance is related to Sara’s sad life and tragic death—and to her belief that Gertie had returned from the grave. Using Sara’s diaries, they embark on a journey to find their mother and, in turn, discover shocking truths. 

In The Winter People, McMahon gives readers just what they want from a good thriller: can’t-put-it-down, stay-up-until-dawn reading. In addition to being downright creepy, this novel is also a poignant reminder of what grief can drive humans to do. Lock your doors, check under your bed and soak up The Winter People, a legitimately chilling supernatural thriller. 

Copyright 2012 BookPage Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2013 December #2
A peaceful Vermont village turns creepy in this tale of the dead returning to life. Sara Harrison Shea's precious daughter, Gertie, dies in 1908 during a harsh and unforgiving winter in which her mother and father, Martin, struggle to keep food on the table. Gertie isn't the first child Sara has lost, but her death is the one she has the most difficult time accepting. When she refuses to believe that Gertie is gone forever and blames Martin for her loss, Sara sets in motion a tragic and horrifying chain of events that will forever change the lives of everyone around them. Flashing back and forth between Sara's time period and the present, the author evokes a sense of suffering and hopelessness as she gathers a cast of characters who bring out the worst in one another: the mysterious, otherworldly Auntie who raised Sara and died before Gertie's birth; the present-day sisters, Ruthie and lemur-eyed, feverish Fawn, who live with their mother, Alice, known in the town as the Egg Lady; and Katherine, newly arrived, a recent widow and artist who is also mourning her lost son. Alice and her late husband were careful to shield their daughters from the outside world, forbidding them access to the Internet, television and other technology, and home-schooling Ruthie. So when Alice vanishes, Ruthie's search for her causes her to cross paths with people and things she doesn't understand. McMahon, a masterful storyteller who understands how to build suspense, creates an ocean of tension that self-implodes in the last two-thirds of the book. That's when her characters make implausible decisions that cause them to behave like teens in low-budget horror films who know there's a mad killer on the loose, yet when they hear noises in the basement, they go down alone to investigate anyway. Although she writes flawless prose, McMahon's characters' improbable choices derail her story. Copyright Kirkus 2013 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Library Journal Reviews 2013 September #2

A century after Sara Harrison Shea was found dead behind her Vermont house following the tragic loss of her daughter, Ruthie lives in the same house with her sister and their mother, Alice. When Alice disappears, Ruthie reads Sara's crumbling diary and sees eerie parallels. Twisty psychological suspense following the New York Times best seller Promise Not To Tell.

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Library Journal Express Reviews
Would you do anything to bring a lost loved one back to life? McMahon's (Promise Not To Tell) latest novel weaves the chilling tale of Sara Harrison Shea, whose life was full of tragedy and brutal deaths. In 1908, after her daughter mysteriously dies, Sara is found flayed to death, presumably by her husband, who commits suicide at the scene. For years the townspeople swear they see Sara at the sites of many local tragedies, and even skeptics leave gifts for her on their doorsteps in hopes of escaping her wrath. Generations later, a new family moves into Sara's home. Nineteen-year-old Ruthie and her sister, Fawn, live in fear of the mysterious forest behind their house, where "sleepers" are rumored to live. These pale, bloodthirsty spirits of the undead are the result of grief-stricken family members using dark magic to bring their loved ones back to life. When Ruthie's mother goes missing, the sisters embark on a downright creepy journey to find her, a journey that also reveals the truth about Sara. Verdict Extremely well written with a story line that is sure to delight (and frighten) thriller lovers and supernatural fans, this novel has the makings of a blockbuster horror flick. [Prepub Alert, 9/15/13.]--Chelsie Harris, San Diego Cty. Lib. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2013 November #4

In this scary thriller, McMahon (The One I Left Behind) explores how far people will go to save the ones they love, and what results when they go too far. In 1908, Sara Harrison Shea, a resident of West Hall, Vt., becomes convinced she can bring her murdered daughter back to life. In the present day, 19-year-old Ruthie Washburne's mother vanishes from their farm without a trace, forcing Ruthie to research West Hall's dark history of disappearances, animal sacrifice, and inexplicable phenomena. Ruthie's chilling discovery that Sara was found murdered with her skin removed a few months after her daughter's burial raises the stakes. Almost every character is imbued with a great deal of psychological depth, which makes the stereotypical portrayal of Auntie, a Native American sorceress, all the more disappointing. McMahon is more successful when she deftly switches between past and present, using the changes in perspective to increase the tension. Author tour. Agent: Daniel Lazar, Writers House. (Feb.)

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