Monday, June 20, 2016

REVIEW: The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon

The Winter People
by Jennifer McMahon

Publisher: Doubleday
Page Count: 317
Release Date: February 11, 2014
Format: Trade Paperback

How got: bought used @ local library sale

First attention getter: a good review I read way back when


From GoodReads:

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.

My Thoughts:

Star Rating - 4.5

I went into this book expecting a vivid horror, ala Pet Semetery (think I got that comparison from another review I read). While there are some aspects that echo this horror classic, this one shines as much in the mystery department as it does the actual horror stuff. A great introduction to the author, I look forward to more of her creepy stuff.

McMahon has a real talent for foreshadowing and hooking together crumbs she’s left throughout the story. Several times I had that “ah ha!” moment when things clicked together to create a creepy whole. She spreads out her clues smoothly throughout the entire story, having her different plot threads overlap and touch in enthralling ways. There was never a dull spot, and I was kept on tenderhooks the entire time.

I loved Ruthie and Sara as primary storytellers, Ruthie a bit more than Sara. Sara’s life was filled with unimaginable tragedy, so much so that she reaches a breaking point and makes a fateful decision that drives the rest of the book. How the rest of her situation devolved into the bloody finale to that thread made for engrossing reading and a jaw dropping character arc.

Yet, I felt more connected to Ruthie than Sara. Maybe it’s because Ruthie was experiencing the horror and tension from a position of ignorance, learning as the events happened just like the readers. With Sara’s previous knowledge, I didn’t connect with her on that score. I liked Ruthie on a personal level, too. She’s a typical young adult facing life after graduation, the whole world at her fingertips, yet being held back by her family’s past as well. I felt she faced the events portrayed with a realistic array of actions and attitudes, liking her for it.

The horror aspects were more of an atmosphere creepiness than outright, poop-in-you-pants scarefest. McMahon has a real gift for atmosphere, from skeletal trees to utter silence to local folklore legends of missing people and the walking dead (anyone see Rick Grimes walking through the snowy landscape?? LOL). The reality of the Sleepers, how they functioned and survived, harkened back enough to a classic horror story to really make this story stand out. That last scene?? Just shiver inducing for its subtle indications…

A fantastic introduction to McMahon and her ethereal creepiness, I found her type and brand of horror to be a great departure from the usual horror fare. While there’s enough to definitely classify this story as a horror story, what’s there serves as a creepy atmosphere for a great story and characters as well. All around, we get a great package. I look forward to more!

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