Review: The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon

This book was going around Bookstagram (aka Instagram), for most of December. There were a couple of IG users that were hosting read alongs and I saw quite a few posts for this book and admittedly became intrigued.

This is an author that I have ever heard of before, which was actually surprising because she has written a number of ghost story thriller books so I am shocked that I haven’t come across her name before.

What ultimately drew me in and made me want to read this one was all the buzz on ‘the gram’ but also the cover. It looked haunting and the stark white contrast and eerie house completely drew me in. Before I knew it, I was desperately searching for a copy at my library that I could read and see what all the fuss was about. 


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.

Now, in present day, nineteen-year-old Ruthie lives in Sara’s farmhouse with her mother, Alice, and her younger sister. Alice has always insisted that they live off the grid, a decision that has weighty consequences when Ruthie wakes up one morning to find that Alice has vanished. In her search 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 into the historical mystery, she discovers that she’s not the only person looking for someone that they’ve lost. But she may be the only one who can stop history from repeating itself (summary from Goodreads). 


One thing is for sure, I am never going to sleep again. This was a book that I had to stop reading at night because I was too scared to keep going (especially when I was home alone). It was so creepy but in the best possible way. There was a perfect balance of mystery and haunting terror. It wasn’t overly paranormal but I loved that it had a distinct paranormal vibe.

The setting was also a huge bonus. I thought Vermont was a unique setting with a lot of potential. The snow and remoteness of the location played on the unease and haunting in the woods. It was a fantastic element that I devoured.

I don’t know that I really liked any of the characters all that well. They didn’t really illicit a lot of sympathy from me, but at the same time I found them interesting and complex. Many of them were driven by grief and it was interesting to see how each of them channeled that grief.

Seeing each part of the modern story come into harmony with the larger narrative of the historical story was exciting and kept me interested and wanting to read more. This was a book I could easily have read on a rainy weekend in front of my fire. It had a lot to recommend itself with the mystery, horror, and setting. A lot of people said this wasn’t her strongest novel, but for me as a first timer reading her books, I absolutely loved it.

I loved it so much that I ordered another one of her books from my library and I begged for an ARC of her new novel, THE INVITED, this is coming in April. This is an author that I could binge read, easily. I am thankful for the Bookstagram community for the endless recommendations, otherwise I might not have found this book.

In the end I went with a 4.5 star rating. I hate giving half stars but this book landed firmly in the middle of a 4 and a 5. I didn’t like the characters enough to give it a 5 but I thought it was still an incredibly entertaining novel.

Book Info and Rating

Paperback, 382 pages
Published January 6th 2015 by Anchor (first published 2014)
ISBN13 9780804169967
Review copy provided by: personal collection (library book).
Rating: 4.5 stars
Genre: horror, thriller, mystery, paranormal


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