Book Review: ‘The Winter People’ by Jennifer McMahon


Rating: 4 / 5

West Hall, Vermont is a small sleepy town with strange disappearances that the residents cannot explain.  Many think it is the ghost of Sara Harrison Shea, who, in the early 1900s, was murdered in the field behind her house.  It is said that her husband, Martin, killed her, and then shot himself, both distraught over the death of their daughter Gertie the month prior.  Teenager Ruthie lives with her mother Alice and younger sister Fawn on the land that belonged to Sara, and now their mother has disappeared without a trace.  While searching for their mother, Ruthie stumbles upon parts of the Sara’s hidden diary, and discovers that what happened almost a century ago could be pertinent to her mother’s vanishing, and that someone else is also looking for Alice.

I didn’t know what to expect from The Winter People, and was shocked with how gripping and engaging it was.   I’m not one to read ghost stories, but this one was an absolute page turner.  The Winter People is about the town of West Hall, and jumps between the past and the present.  The past recounts Sara’s life, from her upbringing by Auntie, who scared the other residents with her potions, through the death of her child, Gertie, to her own death. In the present, Ruthie discovers that the house her family lives at is none other than Sara’s house.  The house has numerous hiding spots, and while searching for clues to her mother’s disappearance, she discovers parts of Sara’s diary and the mystery that haunts West Hall.

It is difficult to give The Winter People an adequate review without spoilers.  Both the past and the present are compelling and complement each other.  There are a few chapters that are head scratchers, and at first seem out of place with no anchor to either Sara or Ruthie’s story lines, but are intriguing and keep the pages turned.  McMahon does a a splendid job bringing everything together, and this is one of those rare novels where both the journey and the end are equally satisfying.

In the End:  Readers who love ghost stories will definitely enjoy this, and even if you don’t, you’re sure to be swept up into this novel with McMahon’s storytelling.

Other books by Jennifer McMahon:

The One I Left Behind


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