Jennifer McMahon: The Winter People

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.

Now, in present day, nineteen-year-old Ruthie lives in Sara’s farmhouse with her mother, Alice, and her younger sister. Alice has always insisted that they live off the grid, a decision that has weighty consequences when Ruthie wakes up one morning to find that Alice has vanished. In her search 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 into the historical mystery, she discovers that she’s not the only person looking for someone that they’ve lost. But she may be the only one who can stop history from repeating itself. 

Do you remember camp outs in middle school–telling ghost stories and holding the flashlight under your chin because it was supposed to make you look spooky? For some reason, late at night, hopped up on sugar and caffeine, nothing was more fun than to creep each other out as much as possible.

The Winter People reminded me of those slumber parties–it has all the elements of a perfect ghost story:  an old mystic woman, a portal to the other side, dark cold nights, bottomless wells, and, of course, spirits rising from the dead.

McMahon takes these ghost story elements and places them in midwinter Vermont, both past and present, layering them into a mysterious horror novel that I couldn’t put down. Each chapter the story would flip back between time periods and I’d be left wondering what was going to happen next–I couldn’t just stop reading it now!

The Winter People reminds me how much I love horror novels of the Gothic-style (this isn’t fully Gothic, but definitely has some of the elements, especially in the 1908 timeline), and that I should read them more often. I thought this would be a book I would read off my TBR, but not do a review, but once I got into it I knew I needed to share it with you. If you like ghost stories, make sure to get this from your library!


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