A Thousand Steps

A Thousand Steps
A Thousand Steps by T. Jefferson Parker

Friday, October 4, 2019

FLASHBACK FRIDAY: The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon- Feature and Review


The New York Times bestselling author of Promise Not to Tellreturns 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.


The Winter PeopleThe Winter People by Jennifer McMahon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon is a 2014 Doubleday publication.

It’s that time of year when I find myself in the mood for a creepy tale of horror. Normally, I pull out an old favorite, like Peter Straub’s ‘Ghost Story’ or perhaps something by Poe, but this year I went in search of something new, or at least new to me.

This book grabbed my attention because it did not appear to fit into the typical ‘slasher’ style horror trope, and seemed to promise me a chilling, atmospheric tale that did not rely upon a blood and gore to shock me or merely gross me out.
Sure enough, the novel delivered what was promised, giving me a solid, atmospheric, and chilling tale, which fit the bill for the perfect story for my Halloween reading pleasure.

West Hall, Vermont is a strange place full of legends and odd disappearances that seem to date back to the gruesome death of Sara Harrison Shea back in 1908 after her only child was found dead.

The reader learns about Sara’s life via her diary entries, which tells the horrific story of Sara’s loss and anguish and the superstitions surrounding ‘The Sleepers’, people who have returned from the dead.

Meanwhile, in present day, Ruthie and her sister, Fawn, discover their mother has disappeared, and their search unearths Sara’s diaries as well a few other shocking revelations, which put them in direct danger.

This story is layered with several underlying themes, which include the pain of losing a loved one, the opportunity to have them back, even if it's only for a brief time, and the consequences of attempting to pull that off.

The isolation of West Hall, the oddities of the town and its inhabitants, both past and present is the perfect stage on which to build a chilling ghost story.

The author did a pretty good job of merging the past with the present, while building an incredibly sly and surprising link between the two, tapping me on the shoulder at just the right moment, giving me the shivers a time or two.

There is a whodunit mystery carved into the story, while delivering a few thought provoking and emotional elements that will leave you wondering if you had the chance would you take the steps Sara did, despite the risks? Or would you tamp down on your selfish desires, fearing the price that must be paid for meddling with things we really shouldn’t, despite the overwhelming temptation to have just one more chance or a few more days with someone we loved?

This is the type of horror novel I enjoy, a smart paranormal tale, which combines a chilling atmosphere, a mystery, and a human element, while scaring the bejesus out of you all at once. Although there are a few graphic details, the story’s edge comes from the quiet, blanketed, location, that feeling of isolation, and the understated suspense that builds without my realizing I’ve been holding my breath.

If more horror novels were written like this one, I would probably pick one up more often. So, if you are looking for a good ghost story, a tale to read on a long, dark, cold winter night, this book is for you.



I'm the author of seven suspense novels, including Promise Not to TelllThe 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

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