Book Review: The Winter People – Jennifer McMahon

The Winter People coverTitle: The Winter People
Author: Jennifer McMahon
ISBN: 9780385538497
Pages: 336
Release Date: February 11, 2014
Publisher: Doubleday
Genre: Literary Mystery, Ghost Story
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4.5 out of 5


In 1908, Sara Harrison Shea was found brutally murdered in the field behind her house. Since then, there have been whispers that the woods behind the farmhouse are haunted, that an evil lurks there that wishes people harm. Now, Ruthie and her sister Fawn live in the house with their mother, Alice. When Alice disappears, Ruthie must discover what happened to their mother, and what she finds makes her suspect it’s connected to what happened to Sara all those years ago.

Snapshot Review:

A literary ghost story, The Winter People is beautifully written, with an evocative atmosphere. Fans of McMahon’s, as well as those new to her work, will love this creepy, character-driven suspense novel.

Full Review:

The Winter People is a quiet novel, full of whispers and dark thoughts rather than the action of a typical suspense thriller. For years, Ruthie has known not to venture into the woods; they are a presence of their own in this novel, hovering just behind every thought, every event in this book. It makes for a haunting atmosphere, one that McMahon writes very well; readers will be able to feel the cold seeping through the cracks of these pages. This “ghost story” feel is what really makes the novel; readers who love books that send chills down their spines will very much appreciate this book.

For all its plot, The Winter People is much more of a character driven story than you’d expect. The book jumps in time from Sara’s story to Ruthie and Fawn’s, and it also incorporates other characters. McMahon develops all these people very well; it’s sometimes hard when you have multiple narrators because things get muddled and confusing, but McMahon uses the literary device of Sara’s diary to tie all these seemingly disparate stories together. And when they come together at the end, it’s almost explosive.

Despite the fact that The Winter People is a quiet literary novel, it moves more quickly then you’d expect. Yes, it takes some time for the story to build, for full cohesiveness to form, but once that happens, readers will find it difficult to put this book down. It’s clear that things are building to a point, that McMahon is taking the readers on a journey, and it’s easy to become swept up in it.

This novel is sure to satisfy McMahon’s longtime fans, but it will also appeal to those new to her work. Fans of both literary fiction and ghost stories would do well to seek out this well-written and creepy tale.

Other books by Jennifer McMahon:

Don’t Breathe a Word
The One I Left Behind
Promise Not to Tell

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