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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Mormon Mention: Jennifer McMahon

If you're not sure what a Mormon is, let alone a Mormon Mention, allow me to explain:  My name is Susan and I'm a Mormon (you've seen the commercials, right?).  As a member of  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (commonly known as the Mormon or LDS Church), I'm naturally concerned with how my religion is portrayed in the media.  Because this blog is about books, every time I see a reference to Mormonism in a book written by someone who is not a member of my church, I highlight it here.  Then, I offer my opinion—my insider's view—of what the author is saying.  It's my chance to correct misconceptions, expound on principles of the Gospel, and even to laugh at my (sometimes) crazy Mormon culture. 


In The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon, Ruthie and her sister are home alone when they spy someone approaching their isolated farmhouse.  Ruthie narrates:

But the reality was, they'd had few visitors over the years: the occasional Mormon or Jehovah's Witness, census takers, a man checking facts for the town assessor's office (quote found at Location 2559 [62%] of e-ARC).

Quotes like these make me chuckle because it's true, Mormon missionaries are a tenacious lot.  They will go to the ends of the earth (literally) to find people interested in hearing their message.  Most proselyting missionaries are young (between 18 and 21 years of age, typically) and full of enthusiasm for sharing their beliefs with others.  It's hard to resist that kind of youthful zeal!  I love the spirit they always have about them—it's a joy that comes from loving and serving the Lord.  Although Ruthie's visitor turns out to be much more sinister than a religious representative, I can definitely see LDS missionaries tromping through the snow to share their message with her and her family.

A word about Jehovah's Witnesses:  Although I have been guilty of ignoring the doorbell when representatives of this church come calling, I have to say that I had several wonderful JW friends growing up.  They were kind, gracious people whom I admired very much.  Also, my mom used to have a Jehovah's Witness missionary who came to see her on a regular basis.  She said the woman was more faithful than her visiting teachers (LDS women are assigned to visit other women in their wards [congregations] each month) and that they always had wonderful conversations about religion.  

What do you do when religious representatives come calling?

Atmospheric and Chilling, The Winter People Another Creepy Hit From McMahon

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

I've tried to write a worthy plot summary for The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon (available February 11, 2014)—over and over and over.  It's just not coming to me, probably because the one on the back of the book does it so well.  Why bother reinventing the wheel?  Besides, this one's a succinct, spine-tingling thing of beauty:

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.

Nice, right?  

So, as much as I enjoyed The Winter People, I have a real love/hate relationship with Jennifer McMahon's books.  Why?  Here's how I explained it in my 2011 review of McMahon's Promise Not to Tell:  
I've probably mentioned this before, but Jennifer McMahon's novels creep me out.  From the freaky covers to the chilling plotlines to the haunting details—everything about them makes me want to dive into my bed, pull a blanket over my head, and chant, "It's not real. It's not real. It's not real." Seriously.  Every time I finish one of McMahon's books, I vow not to pick up another one.  Not to even look at another one.  Because if there's one thing I've learned about this author, it's that if I so much as glance at one of her books, I will pick it up, I will skim the first page, and I won't stop until I finish the story. Even though it will give me nightmares for a week. That's how compelling they are. 
Luckily, McMahon's newest isn't as creepy as some of her others.  At least not in the same way.  The Winter People is still chilling, still nightmare-inducing, still can't-look-away-compelling.  It's just more subtly sinister, if that makes any sense.  At any rate, it's a mysterious, atmospheric horror story that will keep you engaged until the last word—and haunt your dreams for much longer than that.  Not to state the obvious here, but I loved it.  

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of Pet Sematary by Stephen King and Don't Breathe a Word by Jennifer McMahon)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (no F-bombs), violence/gore and depictions of underage drinking/illegal drug use

To the FTC, with love:  I received an e-ARC of The Winter People from the generous folks at Random House via those at NetGalley.  Thank you!              
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