10 February 2014

Review: The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon

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.
Random House / Doubleday, 2014
ISBN-13: 9780385538497
Source: Audio: review (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)


rhapsodyinbooks 2/10/14, 8:15 AM  

I don't like spooky either! I still haven't recovered from In Cold Blood...

JoAnn 2/10/14, 8:37 AM  

I don't really do spooky either, but this one is calling me...

Daryl 2/10/14, 8:48 AM  

i dont think of Stephen King as a spooky writer .. his stuff is more .. searching for the right word here .. weird? supernatural? i dont find myself needing to lock the door or turn on the light or look under the bed so much as keep my eye out for someone who looks out of place/threatening ... this sounds like a good read ... thanks!!

bermudaonion 2/10/14, 9:02 AM  

I've seen the movie trailer for this and it doesn't appeal to me so I haven't been drawn to the book. I know that makes no sense but it's the truth. I'll add this to my list of potential reads.

Unknown 2/10/14, 9:06 AM  

I think this is a great book for fans of horror/mystery/suspense. Not my usual genre, but I am very tempted to pick it up!

shelleyrae @ book'd out 2/10/14, 9:44 AM  

Sounds like a modern gothic story. I read Don't Breathe a Word by McMahon and the premises sound similar.

Shelleyrae @ Book'd Out

Anonymous,  2/10/14, 10:17 AM  

I love Campbell and Mazur as narrators, so I'll look for this one on audio.

Beth Hoffman 2/10/14, 10:58 AM  

I'm not much for spooky either, but I will admit the cover really grabbed my attention. One of my girlfriends loves spooky stories, so I'll send her a link to your blog post!

Kailana 2/10/14, 11:27 AM  

I really should read the book I have by her first, but this book is starting to really catch my attention!

Chrisbookarama 2/10/14, 1:07 PM  

I do like spooky and this was pretty creepy to me. I know what you mean about the hokey parts. It was a little Scooby-Do, but I did really like it though.

Unknown 2/10/14, 8:01 PM  

I usually like her books, but this premise didn't appeal to me, perhaps the ghost factor etc. I read a bit of the ARC and put it down, but I admire the narrators who did this one, and I may pick up the audio at some point.
Thanks, enjoyed the review.

Peggy Ann 2/10/14, 8:27 PM  

I did read this Beth and it was good. I don't usually read these kind of books. Now I'm wishing I'd done the audio version!

Mystica 2/10/14, 10:36 PM  

I am not very fond of spooky but this one does sound intriguing.

Nise' 2/11/14, 7:42 PM  

I like creepy up to a point. I do love Cassandra Campbell as a narrator though!

Leslie (Under My Apple Tree) 2/12/14, 9:44 AM  

I like spooky as long as it isn't too graphic. Just got the audio (I can't pass up Cassandra Campbell) so I'll be listening soon.

Jenn's Bookshelves 2/14/14, 3:58 PM  

This Stephen King fan thought it was spooky enough :)

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