Sunday, December 1, 2013

Review: The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon

Every once in a while you're just in the mood for a good ghost story. A story that involves a small town desperately trying to keep its secrets, myths, and folklore hidden. These type of stories are always set in remote areas where they breed new life with every passing generation. These myths become fantastical whereas aspects of the truth are distorted to make an even more engrossing tale of why there are "sleepers" roaming the forrests.

The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon is gripping novel about a small town in Vermont, West Hall, where people disappear and farm animals to be slaughtered. No one knows where these people go or why these animals are killed. Many would love to believe some have just escaped the mundane that is life in this meager community, but others know the truth... or at least the legend of Sara Harrison Shea.

Because I loved every page of this book I'll leave my summary there and move on to how well it is written. Jennifer McMahon's writing is descriptive and compelling. Although there is no moment I actually felt afraid, this is definitely a dark novel that explores the relationship we living have with the dead. Although the novel turns into a sort-of thriller near the end, where the present day characters are trying to sort between the fact and fiction, The Winter People never becomes hokey or unbelieveable. Pretty hard to imagine when much of the novel deals with the paranormal, huh?

The Winter People is told between the pages of Sara Shea Harrison's diary, the days leading to her legend in 1908, and present day. These transitions are fluid nor slow despite the attention to detail given with setting and character development. At times I found Sara's diary more interesting than the characters from the present day but that's because the bulk of the ghost story happens in the early 1900s.

Yes, I loved this book and could not put it down but it did not come without flaws. The most annoying part of this novel was the main character Ruthie. She's from the present day section of the novel. Ruthie comes home expecting her mother to berate her for coming home past curfew, despite bing 19 years old, and instead finds an empty house that's only occupant is her young sister Fawn. From the beginning she's skeptical and wonders where her mother is. Although, they live completely off the grid, the mother goes missing for what seems like days and the idea to call the cops is touted as being not an option. How far off the grid does life have to become in order to call in reinforcements? I'm sorry but in a town where people disappear and legends never die, I am calling the cops as soon as I see something's askew.

There's one huge glaring theme that comes to play in this novel which is completely relevant because of it being a ghost story of sorts. Our relationship with the dead is always an interesting one. We have the people who are so invested in seeing their loved ones again and will do anything to see them again if only for a few seconds or even seven days. The only problem is that these dead may come back being something we don't want around. If Snow melts down to water, does it still remember being snow? I couldn't get this out of my head after seeing it on the pages. Who are these sleepers that are awakened and what if they aren't who they once were? Are they still as beloved?

The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon was a great read and has me very interested in seeing what other books of hers I can get my hands on. Awesome setting, well drawn characters, and ghosts. GHOSTS I tell ya! What's not to love about that?  ****

Copy provided by Doubleday via Netgalley

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