I don't do spooky, but something about Jennifer McMahon's new novel, The Winter People,
made me take a chance. Perhaps it was the cover, with the promise of
things hidden in the mist, or maybe it was the dual time periods (1908
and the present) that caught my attention. In any case, I flew through
the audiobook in record time, even though I had to double-check to make
sure my doors were locked and my closets were closed.
The Winter People was one of the featured audiobooks in this month's Bloggers Recommend newsletter. For more February recommendations in both print and audio, be sure to read (and subscribe) to the newsletter.
- What's it about? In 1908 West Hall, Vermont, Sara, grieving the accidental death of her young daughter, Gertie, is willing to do almost anything to see her girl just one more time. In modern times, nineteen-year-old Ruthie and her little sister wake up one January morning to discover their mother has gone missing. As the sisters search the house, which once belonged to Sara, for clues of their mother's disappearance, they find disturbing evidence that she may have been keeping dark secrets.
- The creep factor: The Winter People is spooky on a number of levels. First, for more than a hundred years, the woods around Sara's old house have been a place of mysterious deaths. Young girls are told to stay away because "bad things happen" on Sara's land. Local legend claims that Sara knew how to bring back the dead, and people have been searching for her long-lost journal pages that detail the ritual for waking the sleepers, the winter people . . . the dead. Shadows lurk in the edges of characters' vision, unexplained noises are heard within closets, hidey holes are found under the floors, and strange smells emanate from the forest.
- The good: The novel is a lot about mothers and daughters and the strength of love. It's also about marriages and hard times and struggling to make a go of it. McMahon asks us to consider the consequences of reversing fate and the long-term costs of having our wishes come true. I loved how McMahon twisted the dual time periods together and expanded Sara's and Ruthie's stories to encompass other characters. Although I had my suspicions about the truths of what happened/happens in the woods, I was still surprised by some of the details. I also really liked the ending.
- The bad: Some parts of the big action scenes near the end of the novel took on a slightly hokey feel. You know the scene in the late-night horror flicks when the person opens the door or goes into the basement or walks outside even though he knows the bad guy is nearby? The Winter People is not that bad, but still, I wondered why some characters did what they did. Fortunately, it didn't ruin the book for me.
- Recommendation: Although I wonder if Stephen King fans would find The Winter People spooky enough for them, it was plenty creepy for me. The writing is solid, the plot holds up, and the characters are easy to root for. Just remember to lock the doors and windows, turn on the lights, and stay out of the woods!
- Audiobook: The unabridged audiobook edition (Random House Audio; 10 hr, 46 min) was read by Cassandra Campbell and Kathe Mazur. As I mentioned in the Bloggers Recommend newsletter, the audio production is excellent. Campbell and Mazur build on the novel's spooky atmosphere, amping up the tension and keeping us on the edge of our seats.
Source: Audio: review (see review policy)
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