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The Winter People

3.74  ·  Rating Details  ·  22,428 Ratings  ·  3,521 Reviews
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 1
Hardcover, 317 pages
Published February 11th 2014 by Doubleday (first published 2014)
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Anna B I really like this one.

Even though the plot is formulaic, there's a universal theme that has me under a hypnotic hold. The supernatural and ghost…more
I really like this one.

Even though the plot is formulaic, there's a universal theme that has me under a hypnotic hold. The supernatural and ghost aspect to this story is gripping, but the magnetic pull is the inconsolable grief and deep sorrow of the protagonist who will do anything to "be" with her daughter.

The author is a master at plot pacing. Her ninja-like somersaults from one POV to another is remarkable. She does this so well, that it's like watching a well-edited movie that fades in and out of scenes. (less)
Martine Taylor older YA - 'The Ghost Belonged to Me' by Richard Peck (lighter though), and the short story 'The Monkey's Paw' come to mind.
The Collector of Dying Breaths by M.J. RoseWritten in My Own Heart's Blood by Diana GabaldonA Burnable Book by Bruce HolsingerA King's Ransom by Sharon Kay PenmanThe King's Curse by Philippa Gregory
Historical Fiction 2014
65th out of 396 books — 2,324 voters
Gone Girl by Gillian FlynnDark Places by Gillian FlynnSharp Objects by Gillian FlynnThe Girl on the Train by Paula HawkinsThe Girl in 6E by A.R. Torre
Female Psychological Thrillers/Suspense
31st out of 494 books — 1,364 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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For me the difference between a 4-star book and a 5-star book is usually the ending- and Jennifer McMahon's THE WINTER PEOPLE lost a star in the final pages...but a 4-star read is nothing to complain about. This was a spooooooky, creepy tale that had me flipping the pages regardless of a weeeeeee bit of disappointment with its conclusion.

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January 29, 1908 West Hall, Vermont:

The Secret Diary of Sara Harrison Shea- The first time I saw a sleeper, I was nine years old. I recognized her at once- He
Shelby *trains flying monkeys*
Seriously people..these characters need to read more Stephen King. If they had read "Pet Sematary" they would have known that you just don't mess around trying to bring back the dead.

Granted, Mr. King wasn't around writing in the 1800's that some parts of this book took place.
I liked the older bits of the story more than the present day setting. One reason is because Ruthie really did not come across as realistic to me. I mean damn-a 19 year old girl with a curfew? Several things she did and e
Patrice Hoffman
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 a
Dec 22, 2013 Ami rated it liked it
I'm torn about rating this book. I absolutely blew through it--from start to finish in just about a day--both because the narrative is propulsive but also because I wanted to know what was going to happen.

The book is very wonderfully a small-town ghost story, told from multiple points of view from two different eras. You know what sort of monsters you're dealing with almost immediately: "sleepers," or people who have been recalled from the dead by people who miss them. If you are drawing parall
Feb 27, 2015 Lisa rated it liked it
Shelves: buddy-reads
This is going to be so hard for me to rate. I was really engrossed for much of the story and I was sure I had a solid four-star book in my hands. There were even some five-star worthy scenes. But then it started dipping dangerously into that two-star area... For the most part it was a good, solid, read, but there were just some things I didn't like. At times I wished that the author had gone a different direction and there were two characters in particular that didn't ring true to me when all wa ...more
West Hall, Vermont 1908. Sara Harrison Shea is found dead in the field behind her house just months after the tragic death of her daughter. She has been acted weirdly since then and her death is horrifying.

In the present day is nineteen-year-old Ruthie living in Sara's old farmhouse with her mother Alice and her younger sister. They have always lived a very simple life, farming what they need staying away from the modern world as much as possible. When Alice comes home late one night can she se
Diane S ☔
Feb 05, 2014 Diane S ☔ rated it liked it
Beautiful cover, enticing title especially with the winter we are having. Hooked me from the very beginning, two young girls, Ruth and Fern, wonderful inquisitive characters, really wanted to find out what happened. Built of suspense, a little creepiness, exactly what is going on in this town and where has their mother gone? What about the dreams Ruth keeps having, what are they supposed to mean? Really wanted to know, kept reading and then plunk. Even in a book about the impossible, or so I hop ...more
MaryannC.Book Fiend
A totally awesome and creepy book! My book light bit the dust one night and I read some of this by small flashlight and let me tell you it gave me the heebie-jeebies. I am not usually a horror fan, but this was pretty damn good!
Tayari Jones
Oct 28, 2013 Tayari Jones rated it really liked it
In my opinion, this is Jennifer McMahon's best novel yet. I read the entire thing on an overseas flight. I didn't even watch the free movies, preferring to read.

I was really drawn into the plot-- both the current day story of a mother who vanishes one day; and the story in the past where a grieving mother brings her dead child back to life. I was impressed with the way the two stories came together at the end.

For me, this story has just the right amount of creepiness. It wasn't so gory that I w
Feb 19, 2014 PfromJ rated it it was ok
Shelves: disappointing
Silly me. I believed all the hype and was expecting a real chiller of a ghost story. What I got was an inane tale rife with clueless characters. Knuckleheads who opt to take a 5-hour drive to check out a completely iffy lead instead of doing a simple Google search. Who lack all common sense (Uh oh, these papers need to be destroyed or they could alter the fate of all mankind. Let’s keep them in one piece and toss them into this old dry well.) Stephen King already wrote the definitive piece on th ...more
Apr 08, 2015 Britany rated it really liked it
Shelves: gr
A small Vermont town, rooted in legends that will make the small hairs on the back of your neck stand on edge. A diary that is uncovered and a secret that is finally released all culminate in the ending of this novel.

Flipping back and worth between 1908 and present day introduces us to all the main players and the different story lines that eventually all converge together. In 1908, legend has it that Sara Harrison Shea was brutally murdered and still haunts the town to present day. Sara's diary
Feb 06, 2014 Carol rated it really liked it
This deliciously scary tale of conjuring up the dead is the perfect book for a stormy, cold winter's night. If you happen to live in New England your double charmed.

That being said there's more here than meets the eye. Jennifer McMahon takes an age old question and puts her own spin on it in The Winter People. If one of your loved ones died what would you do to bring them back to you, even if only for a short time? Think of the possibilities of how this might help your grieving. However, also c
Jun 12, 2014 Zoeytron rated it liked it
Deep in the Vermont woods in West Hall, one can find the Devil's Hand, a conglomeration of rocks that resemble the fingers on a very large hand. Nearby, there is an orchard that produces bitter malformed fruit. In West Hall, there are a lot of ghost stories and legends, albeit with very few solid facts to back up the frightening tales of children gone missing.

This is a fine ghost story, deftly weaving mysterious happenings between 1908 and present day. With a focus on the power the dead have ov
Debbie "DJ" Wilson
I was in the mood for a good thriller, and the paranormal aspect of this book enticed me. Once I started, I couldn't put it down. Two girls wake up one morning to find no trace of their mother. Where has she gone? I found myself rapidly turning pages as my questions became entangled with the myths of their small Vermont town. Turns out others have gone missing, and there is talk of an old diary that gives directions to bring back the dead for seven days, providing...

Something happened about half
May 02, 2014 Maciek rated it it was ok
West Hall, a small town somewhere in Vermont, is plagued by mysterious disappearances; the most strange of all being the one of Sarah Harrison Shea, who was later found dead in a field behind her house - just one month after the tragic death of her young daughter, Gertie. Their mystery laid dormant and unresolved for more than a hundred years - until two sisters, Ruth and Fawn, move into Sarah's old house and find her old, hidden diary under the floorboards. Fascinated by its contents, Ruth beco ...more
Jun 10, 2014 Laura rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved the spookiness, the haunting plot and the intensity of this ghost story that jumps between different time periods. I thought it was 5 star from the beginning but I was so nervous that the author could not deliver a 5 ending. I was wrong, this is a solid story from beginning to end. The author wrapped up all my questions and I loved how it all came together. This book delivered all the attributes I like in a ghost story.
Dec 06, 2014 Carol rated it really liked it
Shelves: horror, ghosts, read-2014
A super-creepy ghost story full of mystery and suspense. Definitely a page-turner I would recommend if (view spoiler)

When I read The Night Sister it is fair to say I was blown away. I thought McMahon had something really special. An aptitude for suspense and storytelling like I have not yet seen.

I was so excited about reading her work I moved on shortly thereafter and picked up the audio CD of The Winter People. Delee’s review had already sparked my curiously of this book but reading the Night Sister bumped my curiosity to a longing.

The Winter People was not as good as the Night Sister in my opinion. But i
Paul Pessolano
Mar 25, 2014 Paul Pessolano rated it it was amazing
“The Winter People” by Jennifer McMahon, published by Doubleday.

Category – Fiction/Literature Publication Date – February 11, 2014

A must read, and one that will keep you reading well into the night, but only if you keep the lights on.

The entire story revolves around the diary of Sara Harrison Shea. Sara loved her Auntie, a woman that was scorned by the town except when they needed a remedy for whatever ailed them. Auntie left a secret message for Sara that she could only open, “when the time was
Dec 06, 2015 Ron rated it liked it
The Winter People was my first Jennifer McMahon book. I wanted to read it because the premise sounded pretty good, I like a spooky ghost story (if it’s well written), and from what I’ve heard McMahon has a popular following.

So this was an “in between” book for me, meaning that I neither loved nor hated it. The Winter People enters as a ghost/paranormal story, but for many readers it may not end with what you had wanted. I’m in that latter half, and although I wasn’t completely disappointed in th
This was an enjoyable read although it took a while to build the suspense and it was only towards the end of the book that it became spooky or scary as the plots all came together. The story is told over two time periods, 1908 and the current time. In 1908, Sara and Martin Henderson Shea live in an isolated cottage near the village of West Hall, Vermont near an eerie natural stone structure called the Devil's Fingers which is blamed for strange sightings and disappearances' including those of re ...more
Mar 05, 2014 Nicole~ rated it really liked it
There are doorways, gates, between this world and the world of spirits through which the dead can return. Not just as spirits, but as living, breathing beings-- Sleepers.

The Winter People is a preternatural, gothic classic; a feral, feverishly suspenseful tale of those who exist outside the known world, on the fringe --
The story of a little girl named Gertie who died.
Whose mother loved her too much to let her go.
So she brought her back.
The world she came back to wasn't the same.
She wasn't th
Aug 10, 2014 Dianne rated it really liked it
This is a really well-done ghost story - not scary, just suspenseful and hard to put down. Isn't that what you want in a good ghost story? I was totally engrossed in it and, for the most part, it delivered in the end. Recommend.
Feb 07, 2015 Kimberly rated it really liked it
Shelves: group-read
This novel was incredibly rich in atmosphere, making it very easy for a reader to become rapidly attached to the world it was presenting. The book chronicled two separate time periods: the present, where multiple story lines are linked to the events happening to the current tenants of the old Harrison-Shea home; and of the time frame leading up to the mysterious death and legacy of Sara Harrison Shea.

The spectacular attention to details honestly made me feel as if I was in the old farmhouse with
Jan 07, 2015 Connie rated it liked it
Finished, review to come.

This is the first time reading McMahon and I was ready for a "do not read late at night" spooky book, one that would make me jumpy and listening carefully to every little nighttime sound. It did not quite fulfill that.

The story revolves around the "myth" of there being sleepers out there. People who have died and have not passed over yet. What makes them stay, how do they complete their journey? Would you bring someone back to you?

I has some trouble at the beginning o
Mar 25, 2016 Melisa rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
Jennifer McMahon, you are one masterful ghost story teller.

This story gave me the heebie jeebies in the best possible way. Am I embarrassed to admit I had to take a break from reading this book alone at night because I got too creeped out? Maybe a little.
Mar 28, 2016 Çimen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2016, horror
I was in the mood for something creepy and set in the woods. I envisioned a character walking through a dark forest, the atmosphere eerie with a feeling of being watched. A prickling sensation at the back of the neck, chills running down the spine…etc., you get my drift. This book was just what I’d been looking for and I gulped it down with the blissful contentment of having found the perfect read for the moment. I enjoyed the different narrators and story lines, it all added to the suspense and ...more
Janie Johnson
Jul 20, 2015 Janie Johnson rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015-challenge
I received this book as a gift from my husband and I decided I wanted to read it right away because I have read other books by this author, The One I Left Behind, and Promise Not to Tell. I enjoyed both of those books and really enjoy the authors style of writing.

In this book we have Ruthie who lives with her mother, Alice, and Sister Fawn in West Hall, Vermont in an old farm house that belonged to a supposed mad woman named Sara Harrison Shea back in 1908. The town is known for odd disappearanc
Feb 15, 2015 Charlene rated it liked it
3.5 stars
Apr 06, 2014 Hannah rated it liked it
Shelves: spookies, 2014-reads
First half of novel: 5 stars
Final half of novel: 1.5 stars

Disappointing wrap up - I really felt this one was going to knock my socks off.
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  • Snowblind
  • Silence for the Dead
  • House of Echoes
  • The Vanishing
  • Help for the Haunted
  • Things Half in Shadow
  • Mind of Winter
  • A Dark Dividing
  • Bliss House
  • Savage Girl
  • The Waiting Room
  • The Deepest Secret
  • That Night
  • The Dead Path
  • The Boy Who Drew Monsters
  • The Haunted Looking Glass
  • This House is Haunted
  • The Evening Spider
I'm the author of seven suspense novels, including Promise Not to Telll, The Winter People, and most recently, The Night Sister . I live in central Vermont with my partner and daughter, in an old Victorian that some neighbors call The Addams Family house.
More about Jennifer McMahon...

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“Madness is always a wonderful excuse, don’t you think? For doing terrible things to other people.” 16 likes
“If snow melts down to water, does it still remember being snow?” 8 likes
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