Monday, March 31, 2014

Review: The Winter People

Summary: 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. - Doubleday

For a few years now, I've been reading very positive reviews about books by Jennifer McMahon. I can't really say why it took me this long to read one of her novels; however, I finally did pick up her latest book THE WINTER PEOPLE. I knew it was supposed to be a literary thriller, but I admit I was a little surprised that this book was such a "ghost story." I tend to stay away from books like this. Not because I never enjoy a story with supernatural elements. I just rarely go out of my way to read them.

Having said that, I am really glad that I decided to read THE WINTER PEOPLE. It was a little outside of my comfort zone; however, I ended up really appreciating Ms. McMahon's writing style as well as the story. And I am actually looking forward to reading more of her novels in the future.

THE WINTER PEOPLE takes place in West Hall, Vermont, and moves back and forth between the present and the early 1900s. West Hall has an interesting past, but is probably best known for the unusual death of Sara Shea who was found death just a few months after the death of her young daughter.

Fast forward about 100 years to Ruthie who lives in Sara's old farmhouse with her mother and sister. Ruthie's mother Alice decided to bring the girls up close to nature with little outside interference. That means no computer, Internet access, television, etc. When Alice goes missing one morning, Ruthie decides to look into matters on her own. Her investigation leads her to an old diary written by Sara, and she finds that her present day story has many close ties to Sara's.

THE WINTER PEOPLE is an intriguing mystery and I thoroughly enjoyed it... despite having my initial doubts. I think the main reason I found this book to be so entertaining, though, wasn't the story. Rather it was Ms. McMahon's writing. I was so impressed with how she transitioned back and forth between Sara and Ruthie's stories, and I love how they tied together. In many books, I find that I care much more about one of the plot lines or characters than the other; however, in this novel, I felt both stories were very solid.

Another really strong aspect of this book was the character development. I especially thought Sara and Ruthie were incredibly well drawn characters and seemed very real to me. While I definitely didn't agree with all of their actions or motives, I found them to be convincing characters. Furthermore, I thought about them a great deal as I read this novel and I even continued after I finished it That's always a sign to me of a good book!

Ms. McMahon did a great job of creating suspense. I very much appreciated the pacing of the book and how the stories escalated as the book neared its ending. I don't know if I'd go so far as to say that I felt scared as I read THE WINTER PEOPLE, but I did think the story and some of its characters were a little creepy! In addition, I enjoyed how the novel had some pretty neat twists and turns; and I never felt as if I were bored with either of the stories.

Overall, I enjoyed THE WINTER PEOPLE and I especially liked "discovering" a new-to-me author in Jennifer McMahon. Recommended for fans of ghost stories and literary thrillers.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this book.

Mystery Mondays is a regular feature where I review all types of mystery books -- traditional mysteries, suspense/thrillers, and even cozies! Please feel free to share your thoughts on any recent mystery books that you've read. Mystery Mondays is a regular feature where I review all types of mystery books -- traditional mysteries, suspense/thrillers, and even cozies! Please feel free to share your thoughts on any recent mystery books that you've read.


Kim@Time2Read said...

I saw this one just the other day and wondered if I might be interested in it. After reading your review, I think I am. Adding it to my list! Thanks!

Stacie said...

I have been wanting to read one of her books. I'm not too interested in mysteries or thrillers or even ghost stories, but I am interested in this one. I've had her other books on my shelf, but just haven't read them yet.

techeditor said...

I haven't read this author, either, but I won this book and just started it.

bermudaonion said...

I didn't realize this is a ghost story either. I have it on audio - I hope it's as good that way.

Beth F said...

I loved this in audio! I don't usually do scary, but this one was almost perfect.

The Many Thoughts of a Reader said...

this sounds really interesting.