Warning: If you have other things you need to get done, do NOT pick up "The Winter People" by Jennifer McMahon.
I've had this book on my "to-do" list since I got approved to get an advanced copy from Net Galley, but I was putting it off because I'm doing National Novel Writing Month and a wise professor once put it in my head that it's not great to read other authors while you're working intently on your own writing. He said he didn't like doing that because it interfered with his own "voice" in his writing. It makes sense to me, especially after I had to read Toni Morrison's "Home" while doing the April NaNoWriMo Camp and it had me feeling terrible about my own writing. So this November, I vowed that I would read only non-fiction. It worked well at first. My book club read "Killing Kennedy" this month. I started "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" but it made me too squeamish so I ended up calling it quits. Then I started Mary Roach's "Spook." Last week, I was arranging my "to-read" list for the next month or so — why yes, I did arrange my list to make sure I could squeeze in several Christmas/winter books, don't judge me.
At the top of that list was "The Winter People." I love getting advanced copies of books, but the problem is that I feel tremendous pressure to read them right away when I'm approved. That and a craving for fiction led me to start "The Winter People."
Jennifer McMahon had me hooked from the start. The story centers around a spooky old farmhouse near West Hall, Vermont, and alternates between 1908 and present day. The 1908 portions follow Sara Harrison Shea, her husband Martin, and their daughter, Gertie. When Gertie disappears one winter day, her mother stops at nothing to get her back. The consequences of what she does continue to affect the people of West Hall more than 100 years later. The present-day portions follow a girl named Ruthie and her sister Fawn, whose mother disappears; and Katherine, who is trying to figure what led her husband, Gary, to West Hall on the day he died.
"The Winter People" is wonderfully creepy. I loved the setting, the characters, and all the intricate details that tied all the stories together. Jennifer McMahon does a great job of making you feel like you are there, and maintaining tension throughout. I definitely will be seeking out more from this author.