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The Winter People


The Winter People Cover

ISBN13: 9780385538497
ISBN10: 0385538499
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Reading Group Guide

1. 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?

2. 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?

3. 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?

4. Ruthie and Fawn have been raised to question authority and to live a non-materialistic 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?

5. Reread the excerpt from Amelia’s introduction on the book’s first page. How do Amelia and the other townspeople react to their legacies? Why did Reverend Ayers feel so threatened by Auntie?

6. 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?

7. 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?

8. Did Tom and Bridget O’Rourke have ethical motivations? Did Candace? How do the revelations about them affect Ruthie’s sense of self?

9. How did you react to Gertie’s hunger? What is its significance to the maternal women who must care for her?

10. Discuss Katherine and Gary’s love for each other. How does their marriage compare to the others presented in the book? How do Katherine’s art and Gary’s photography give them a unique perspective on life and memory? What does their story indicate about whether a sleeper should be awakened?

11. 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?

12. 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?

13. 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? 

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Average customer rating based on 3 comments:

techeditor, April 6, 2014 (view all comments by techeditor)
Here is the reason that I left THE WINTER PEOPLE unrated. I did not finish it. It is a young-adult (YA) novel, and I'm beyond that.

I apologize to bookclubcookbook.com for this. I entered their contest for THE WINTER PEOPLE and won when someone else who entered and didn't win might have enjoyed the book.

Many adults like the YA writing style. Maybe that is the reason this book received so many wonderful reviews on so many book blogs. When I was reading it, though, I felt like I had been deceived. Why don't book reviewers mention when a book is YA if their review is to appear on a book blog for adults?
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The Lost Entwife, March 16, 2014 (view all comments by The Lost Entwife)
I'm going to admit that I'm pretty much over the narration style that involves shifting back to a time in history then jumping forward into the present to connect things. Jennifer McMahon manages to make it a bit better in The Winter People by making some of the historical narrative present itself as diary entries. Still, there was a lot of dates happening at the beginning of various sections in The Winter People and it never fails to confuse me. Not once. I mean, who really pays attention to dates - years even, let alone the actual month and day? How do you do that if you do? I always, inevitably, have to flip back and remind myself... very inconvenient in an ebook format too, by the way.
Thankfully, the dates were not the only thing in The Winter People helping keep this reader on track. McMahon offers up a compromise by putting various character names at the start of each change in narrative and this I could handle. Honestly, if it hadn't been like that, I may not have pushed forward and allowed myself to get hooked by the book, that's how much I hate dates. I'm glad the names were there, I'm glad I pushed forward because folks, this ghost story had me keeping my lights on last night.

If you pick up The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon, be prepared for some pretty gnarly superstitious stuff to be going on. This book has it all - historical events that involve blood and gore, spells, myth and folklore, mystery, strangers connected via unseen forces... it's all there. And it'll have you guessing because, if you are anything like me, you'll be thinking you have it all figured out but nope, McMahon comes through again with one of her books and throws a wrench into what seems to be a carefully crafted story around an event that you start to think was never a mystery in the first place.

The Winter People is unlike the other books of McMahon's I've read, but I knew when I picked it up that I was in for a white-knuckled read. She's consistently been an author who has been my go-to when I'm having issues with a reading slump and I think The Winter People is a great addition to her repertoire.
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Peggy Arthurs, December 17, 2013 (view all comments by Peggy Arthurs)
The Winter People is a well written, complex, suspense novel! This ghost story is quite different from say Wendy Webb's ghost stories. This one has a real edge of evil to it.

It switches between 1908 and present day thru the use of Sara's diary. As we are learning Sara's story and what happened to her in 1908 we are also watching the consequences of that unfolding still in present day. There are three main female characters in this story. Sara, Ruthie and Katherine. We also get to look at the story in 1908 from Sara's husband Martin's view. At first I thought it was a little confusing flipping back and forth between so many people. But it all came together wonderfully.

A thoughtful tale of what lengths we might go to for just a few more days with those we've loved and lost. And of greed and revenge! This was my first experience with this author and I will definitely be reading more of her!
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Product Details

Mcmahon, Jennifer
Doubleday Books
McMahon, Jennifer
Popular Fiction-Suspense
Publication Date:
9.52 x 6.37 x 1.17 in 1.28 lb

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The Winter People New Hardcover
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Product details 336 pages Doubleday Books - English 9780385538497 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

Jennifer McMahon gets back to her roots with The Winter People (after her equally successful mystery-leaning last novel). This unsettling and odd novel tackles one of the biggest questions out there: Can the dead be brought back to life? The stories of several main characters are woven together between 1908 and present day. The plot involves a missing mother, a dead husband, a revenge killing, secret papers hidden in cubby holes, a grief-destroyed mother, something evil uncovered in a field, something terrifying buried in a field, and a closet door that has been nailed shut. Oh, how delicious! McMahon's central character is Gertie, one of the creepy little girls she has become so adept at creating (well... way, way beyond creepy this time around). An intricate, chilling "ghost" story, The Winter People will have you flying through its pages — definitely unable to stop!

"Synopsis" by , 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.
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