The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon
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 the 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 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 they've lost. But she may be the only one who can stop history from repeating itself.
Review by Brittany:
I picked up this book after seeing it recommended on Facebook by a book blogger who had nothing but glowing things to say. From there, I read the blurb and decided that this book would be one worth trying out.
Wow. I had no idea quite how much I was going to enjoy this one. The book opens up with a note from the editor of Sara's published diary, and from there the book splits between the past and the present. I enjoyed reading from the perspective of Sara and husband Martin, and getting bits and pieces of their story as I learned about Ruthie and Katharine, two women who seem to have nothing in common until the climax of the story. I think having different perspectives coming together to reveal the mysteries of both the past and the present was extremely well done in this novel.
I also loved the paranormal aspect to this story. The winter people are also called sleepers, and they are essentially zombies. People can use black magic in order to revive a loved one who has passed, although it is temporary and the people don't come back to you the way they left you. The book chronicles Sara's experiences with wanting to bring back her 8-year-old daughter, Gertie, and what happens in the aftermath of her attempt to do so. That ties in to Ruthie's search for her mother and what's happening in the present.
What struck me the most about this novel - and what I think will stay with me - is the complete sadness of the tragedies in the book. There was so much sadness and so many terrible things that happened to the characters in the book, particularly the ones from history, that spiraled to create this huge mess they are all now in. Sara's experiences with losing her family members as she grew up and then losing her daughter at such a young age left me aching for all that she'd been through. Who could blame her for wishing for one chance to see her daughter again? The way the author spun the story to start with one terrible event - not revealed until the end of the book - and had it all unravel from there, creating havoc as it went along, was a beautiful storytelling technique and kept me hooked throughout.
I absolutely loved this book. It kept me turning pages and eagerly reading whenever I could, a sure sign of a good book. I definitely recommend.