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Scary,
Dramatic,
Dark

11 reviews

The Winter People: A Novel
by Jennifer McMahon

Published: 2014-02-11
Hardcover : 336 pages
39 members reading this now
13 clubs reading this now
10 members have read this book
Recommended to book clubs by 11 of 11 members
The New York Times bestselling author of Promise Not to Tell returns with a simmering literary thriller about ghostly secrets, dark choices, and the unbreakable bond between mothers and daughters . . . sometimes too unbreakable.

West Hall, Vermont, has always been a town of strange ...
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Introduction

The New York Times bestselling author of Promise Not to Tell returns with a simmering literary thriller about ghostly secrets, dark choices, and the unbreakable bond between mothers and daughters . . . sometimes too unbreakable.

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.

Editorial Review

No editorial review at this time.

Excerpt

The Secret Diary of Sara Harrison Shea

January 29, 1908

The first time I saw a sleeper, I was nine years old.

It was the spring before Papa sent Auntie away—before we lost my brother, Jacob. My sister, Constance, had married the fall before and moved to Graniteville.

I was up exploring in the woods, near the Devil’s Hand, where Papa had forbidden us to play. The trees were leafing out, making a lush green canopy overhead. The sun had warmed the soil, giving the damp woods a rich, loamy smell. Here and there beneath the beech, sugar maple, and birch trees were spring flowers: trilliums, trout lilies, and my favorite, jack- in-the-pulpit, a funny little flower with a secret: if you lift the striped hood, you’ll find the preacher underneath. Auntie had shown me this, and taught me that you could dig up the tubers and cook them like turnips. I had just found one and was pulling back the hood, looking for the tiny figure underneath, when I heard footsteps, slow and steady, moving my way. Heavy feet dragging through the dry leaves, stumbling on roots. I wanted to run, but froze with panic, having squatted down low behind a rock just as a figure moved into the clearing. ... view entire excerpt...

Discussion Questions

1. At the heart of the novel is the longing to be reunited with a loved one who has died. How would you respond to this possibility, even if you could only see your beloved for one week?
What risks would you take to take to experience such a reunion?

2. What was it like to read Sara’s diary, alternating with scenes from other time periods? Did Sara’s words change your vision of the spirit world? Did her bond with Gertie remind you of your own experience with a mother’s love?

3. When Alice and her family inhabit Sara’s house and her land, how does that environment transform them? Do you believe that the history of a locale can influence your present-day experiences there?

4. Ruthie and Fawn have been raised to question authority and to live a non-materialistic life. What benefits and challenges does their upbringing give them when their mother goes missing? Ultimately, what did Alice try to teach her daughters about becoming fulfilled women?

5. Reread the excerpt from Amelia’s introduction on the book’s first page. How do Amelia and the other townspeople react to their legacies? Why did Reverend Ayers feel so threatened by Auntie?

6. Martin cherishes Sara and continually strives to please her. Does she love him in equal measure, or does her ancestry make it too difficult for an outsider to fully share a life with her?

7. How was Sara affected by her history with her siblings, Constance and Jacob? Why did their father easily become dependent on Auntie, while Sara’s mother didn’t trust her?

8. Did Tom and Bridget O’Rourke have ethical motivations? Did Candace? How do the revelations about them affect Ruthie’s sense of self?

9. How did you react to Gertie’s hunger? What is its significance to the maternal women who must care for her?

10. Discuss Katherine and Gary’s love for each other. How does their marriage compare to the others presented in the book? How do Katherine’s art and Gary’s photography give them a unique perspective on life and memory? What does their story indicate about whether a sleeper should be awakened?

11. Consider the rules for waking a sleeper. What do the words and the ingredients represent in terms of the cycles of life and the nature of death?

12. What were your theories about the many unsolved deaths in West Hall? Did your instincts prove to be correct when the truth about the Devil’s Hand was revealed?

13. In The Winter People and previous novels by Jennifer McMahon that you have enjoyed, how is the author able to make surreal situations seem highly realistic? What role do fear and courage play in each of her books?

Suggested by Members

WONDER WHY THE AUTHOR CHOSE TO END IT THE WAY SHE ENDED IT
by grandma56 (see profile) 04/10/14

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

No notes at this time.

Book Club Recommendations

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
 
 
  "Winter People"by dmccleery (see profile) 05/15/14

I think book was superbly written. I liked the use of the diary mixed with narrative. I liked the constant shift from present day to multiple times int he past. I did not care for the disturbing content.... (read more)

 
by Bibliophile-1 (see profile) 05/14/14

The book was well written with many twists, but very disturbing.

 
by toffeymom (see profile) 05/06/14

 
  "Winter People"by Saun12 (see profile) 04/27/14

I might have given it another name because the name made little sense to the story. But I listened to the end and figured it out about disk 7. I just did not like the way it ended

 
  "The Winter People"by bhale (see profile) 12/18/14

 
by cbraud (see profile) 10/18/14

 
by Clemann (see profile) 10/17/14

 
  "Lovers of supernatural, rejoice, this book will entertain you!"by thewanderingjew (see profile) 07/22/14

This is a page-turning beach read which will keep you on the edge of your seat. If you like fantasy and the supernatural, you will be engaged immediately. The story has hints of strange crea... (read more)

 
  "The Winter People"by ADMINOFFICER (see profile) 04/30/14

 
  "THE WINTER PEOPLE"by grandma56 (see profile) 04/10/14

I LOVED THE WRITING OF THE AUTHOR. COULD NOT PUT IT DOWN. A LITTLE DISAPPOINTED IN THE ENDING BUT STILL WOULD HIGHLY RECOMMEND TO READ

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