THE WINTER PEOPLE

Jennifer McMahon

A Boston Globe Best Book of the Year

A simmering literary thriller of the unbreakable

bonds between mothers and their children, The

Winter People showcases the spellbinding talent

that has made Jennifer McMahon a bestselling

storyteller. This tale of ghostly secrets and dark

choices takes us to rural West Hall, Vermont, a

town known for strange disappearances. The most

legendary victim is Sara Harrison Shea. In 1908, she was found dead in the

field behind her house just months after the tragic death of her daughter,

more …

A Boston Globe Best Book of the Year

A simmering literary thriller of the unbreakable

bonds between mothers and their children, The

Winter People showcases the spellbinding talent

that has made Jennifer McMahon a bestselling

storyteller. This tale of ghostly secrets and dark

choices takes us to rural West Hall, Vermont, a

town known for strange disappearances. The most

legendary victim is Sara Harrison Shea. In 1908, she was found dead in the

field behind her house just months after the tragic death of her daughter,

Gertie. More than a century later, Sara’s farmhouse is inhabited by a family

that savors the simple life, existing off the grid and practicing sustainable

farming. When their mother suddenly vanishes without a trace, it’s up

to nineteen-year-old daughter Ruthie to track her down. Desperate for

clues, she discovers Sara’s diary hidden in her mother’s bedroom, opening

Ruthie’s eyes to a world of “sleeper” souls—and the desperate mourners

who dare to wake them.

less …
  • Anchor
  • Paperback
  • January 2015
  • 400 Pages
  • 9780804169967

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About Jennifer McMahon

Jennifer McMahon is the author of six novels,

including the New York Times bestsellers Island of Lost Girls and Promise

Not to Tell. She graduated from Goddard College and studied poetry in the

MFA Writing Program at Vermont College. She currently lives with her

partner and daughter in Montpelier, Vermont.

Praise

“One of the year’s most chilling novels. . . . Enthralling.”—The Miami Herald

“Crisp, mysterious and scary . . . Reminiscent of Stephen King.”—USA

Today

“A hauntingly beautiful read.”—Oprah.com

Discussion Questions

At the heart of the novel is the longing to be reunited

with a loved one who has died. How would you respond

to this possibility, even if you could only see your

beloved for one week? What risks would you take to take

to experience such a reunion?

What was it like to read Sara’s diary, alternating with scenes from other

time periods? Did Sara’s words change your vision of the spirit world?

Did her bond with Gertie remind you of your own experience with a

mother’s love?

When Alice and her family inhabit Sara’s house and her land, how does

that environment transform them? Do you believe that the history of a

locale can influence your present-day experiences there?

Ruthie and Fawn have been raised to question authority and to live a nonmaterialistic

life. What benefits and challenges does their upbringing

give them when their mother goes missing? Ultimately, what did Alice

try to teach her daughters about becoming fulfilled women?

Martin cherishes Sara and continually strives to please her. Does she

love him in equal measure, or does her ancestry make it too difficult

for an outsider to fully share a life with her?

How was Sara affected by her history with her siblings, Constance and

Jacob? Why did their father easily become dependent on Auntie, while

Sara’s mother didn’t trust her?

How did you react to Gertie’s hunger? What is its significance to the

maternal women who must care for her?

Consider the rules for waking a sleeper. What do the words and the

ingredients represent in terms of the cycles of life and the nature of death?

What were your theories about the many unsolved deaths in West

Hall? Did your instincts prove to be correct when the truth about the

Devil’s Hand was revealed?

In The Winter People and previous novels by Jennifer McMahon that

you have enjoyed, how is the author able to make surreal situations

seem highly realistic? What role do fear and courage play in each of

her books?