I was initially drawn to this audiobook because the turn of the seasons makes me crave mystery and ghost stories. I love listening to audio books, as I work around the kitchen so McMahon's creepy story about wishing a loved one back from the dead seemed a perfect distraction from canning tomatoes and making mincemeat for winter pies.
The story opens with a young couple living at the turn of the century in a small Vermont farming community. It's wintertime and bitterly cold. Food's a bit scarce, the farmhouse is drafty, but Martin, Sara, and their daughter, Gertie are making ends meet. Martin hunts in the woods behind the farmhouse, determined to care for his little family. The growing season is short and the fields are rocky, but martin ekes out a living for them. We read of one fall day when he returns to the house, having found a ruined homestead deep in the woods. He's found a bone ring that he gives to Sara. Her reaction is strong and definite ... get the ring out of the house and go bury it, return it to the earth. But Martin doesn't. He holds onto it ... his first mistake.
McMahon's story jumps to present time and brings in characters who now live on the same property that Martin and Sara lived on. Strange things are happening in the Vermont town. Ruth and Fawn's mother has gone missing and they are left to try to figure out just why. Their initial search of their house, barn, and grounds uncovers a couple wallets that belong to strangers and a gun. Ruthie decides to try to track down the owners, so she and her boyfriend take Fawn and head for Connecticut where Ruthie's childhood dreams become strangely real.
The plot thickens ...
Back on the farm, Fawn reveals to Ruthie strange hidey-holes that she has found in the farmhouse. her relationship with her little doll, Mimi becomes odder. She develops a strange fever. Winter has come on with a vengeance and the isolation of the farmhouse becomes heavy and foreboding of deeper troubles to come. Then, people begin showing up at the house who have connections to Alice, Ruthie and Fawn's mother.
These new characters bring the past and the present together and force a creepy confrontation that brings the stories of Martin and Sara, Gertie, Ruthie and Fawn's mother, and several other incidental characters to a head ( a contrived one, I might add).
I enjoyed this story up to the point when the modern day characters began making decisions and moves that became stupid and reminiscent of a B-movie knock-off. Did McMahon become tired of the story? Did she really feel that sending the characters off in a snowstorm to a 'haunted location' deep in the New England forest was logical or even plausible? I listened to the end, but my respect was lost for the integrity of the story from the time that the farmhouse scene takes shape.
That being said, the audiobook's narration was pretty good. Cassandra Campbell and Kathe Mazur bring a plodding foreboding to the read, providing voice to the characters that shifts well and keeps dialogue engaging. I always find 'childish voices' done by adults a bit cloying, but these readers accomplished the voices of Fawn and Gertie admirably. For a ghost story, The Winter People gets three stars from me ... it was a fine introduction to my fall line of creepy reads, but I know there are some better stories out there in the foggy mist of fall. As for Jennifer McMahon ... she has some other books that have received better reviews from writers far more knowledgable than me. I'll try another later in the season ...
This is the second read in my annual RIP literary challenge. For this year's RIP X challenge details, other readers' reviews and reactions to their creepy reads, see the following link.