The Invited

The Invited

by Jennifer McMahon


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A chilling ghost story with a twist: the New York Times best-selling author of THE WINTER PEOPLE, returns to the woods of Vermont to tell the story of a husband and wife who don't simply move into a haunted house, they start building one from scratch, without knowing it, until it's too late...

In a quest for a simpler life, Helen and Nate abandon the comforts of suburbia and teaching jobs to take up residence on forty-four acres of rural land where they will begin the ultimate, aspirational do-it-yourself project: building the house of their dreams. When they discover that this charming property has a dark and violent past, Helen, a former history teacher, becomes consumed by the legend of Hattie Breckenridge, a woman who lived and died there a century ago. As Helen starts carefully sourcing decorative building materials for her home - wooden beams, mantles, historic bricks — she starts to unearth, and literally conjure, the tragic lives of Hattie's descendants, three generations of "Breckenridge women," each of whom died amidst suspicion, and who seem to still be seeking something precious and elusive in the present day.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780385541381
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 04/30/2019
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 10,895
Product dimensions: 6.40(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Jennifer McMahon is the author of nine novels, including the New York Times bestsellers The Winter People and Promise Not to Tell. She graduated from Goddard College and studied poetry in the MFA writing program at Vermont College.

Read an Excerpt



Hattie Breckenridge
MAY 19, 1924

It had started when Hattie was a little girl.
She’d had a cloth-bodied doll with a porcelain head called Miss Fentwig. Miss Fentwig told her things—things that Hattie had no way of knowing, things that Hattie didn’t really want to hear. She felt it deep down inside her in the way that she’d felt things all her life.
Her gift.
Her curse.
One day, Miss Fentwig told her that Hattie’s father would be killed, struck by lightning, and that there was nothing Hattie could do. Hattie tried to warn her daddy and her mother. She told them just what Miss Fentwig had said. “Nonsense, child,” they said, and sent her to bed without supper for saying such terrible things.
Two weeks later, her daddy was dead. Struck by lightning while he was putting his horse in the barn.
Everyone started looking at Hattie funny after that. They took Miss Fentwig away from her, but Hattie, she kept hearing voices. The trees talked to her. Rocks and rivers and little shiny green beetles spoke to her. They told her what was to come.
You have a gift, the voices told her.
But Hattie, she didn’t see it that way. Not at first. Not until she learned to control it.
Now, today, the voices cried out a warning.
First, it was the whisper of the reeds and cattails that grew down at the west end of the bog—a sound others would hear only as dry stalks rubbing together in the wind, but to her they formed a chorus of voices, pleading and desperate: They’re coming for you, run!
It wasn’t just the plants who spoke. The crows cawed out an urgent, hoarse warning. The frogs at the edge of the bog bellowed at her: Hurry, hurry, hurry.
Off in the distance, dogs barked, howled: a pack of dogs, moving closer, coming for her.
And then there were footsteps, a single runner coming down the path. Hattie was in front of their house, an ax in her hands, splitting wood for the fire. Hattie loved splitting wood: to feel the force of the blows, hear the crack as the ax head hit the wood, splitting it right at the heart. Now she raised the ax defensively, waiting.
“Jane?” she called out when she saw her daughter come bursting out of the woods, hair and eyes wild. Her blue flowered dress was torn. Hattie had sewn the dress herself, as she’d made all their clothes, on her mother’s old treadle sewing machine with fabric ordered from the Sears, Roebuck catalog. Sometimes Hattie splurged and bought them dresses from the catalog, but they were never as comfortable or durable as the ones she sewed.
Hattie lowered the ax.
“Where have you been, girl?” she asked her daughter.
It was a school day, but Hattie had forbidden her daughter from going to school. And last she knew, Jane was gathering kindling in the woods.
Jane opened her mouth to speak, to say, but could not seem to make the words come.
Instead, she burst into tears.
Hattie set down her ax, went to her, wrapped her arms around Jane’s trembling body.
Then she smelled the smoke on Jane’s dress, in her tangled hair.
Even the smoke spoke to her, spun an evil tale.
“Jane? What’s happened?”
Jane reached into the pocket of her dress, pulled out a box of matches.
“I’ve done something wicked,” she said.
Hattie pushed her away, held tight to her arms, searched her face. Hattie had spent her life interpreting messages and signs, divining the future. But her own flesh and blood, her daughter—her mind was closed to Hattie. Always had been.
“Tell me,” Hattie said, not wanting to know.
“Mama,” Jane said, crying. “I’m sorry.”
Hattie closed her eyes. The dogs were coming closer. Dogs and men who were shouting, crashing through the woods. It had always been funny to Hattie how men who’d spent their whole lives mov­ing through these woods, hunting in them, could move so clumsily, without grace, without any trace of respect for the living things they trod upon.
“What will we do?” Jane looked pale and young, much younger than her twelve years. Fear does that to a person: shrinks them down, makes them small and weak. Hattie had learned, over the years, to put her own fears in a box at the back of her mind, to stand tall and brave, to be resilient to whatever enemy presented itself.
“You? You’ll go hide in the root cellar back where the old house used to be.”
“But there are spiders down there, Mama! Rats, too!”
“Spiders and rats are the least of our concerns. They’ll bring you no harm.”
Unlike the men who are coming now, Hattie thought. The men who are close. Getting closer still. If she listened, she could hear their voices, their shouts.
“Cut through the woods to the old place. Climb down into the cellar and bar the door. Open it for no one.”
“But, Mama—”
“Go now. Run! I’ll come for you. I’ll lead them away, then I’ll come back. I’ll be back for you, Jane Breckenridge, I swear. Don’t you open that cellar door for anyone but me. And, Jane?”
“Yes, Mama?”
“Don’t you be afraid.”
As if it could be that easy. As if you could banish fear just like that. As if words could have such power.
By the time Jane ran down the path, the dogs were coming from the east, from the road that led into the center of town. Old hound dogs, trained to tree bears and coons, but now it was her scent they were after.
Don’t be afraid, Hattie told herself now. She concentrated on push­ing the fear to the back of her mind. She picked up her ax and stood tall.
“Witch!” the men who ran after the dogs cried. “Get the witch!”
“Murderer!” some cried.
“The devil’s bride,” others said.
Ax clenched in her hands, Hattie started off across the bog, know­ing the safest path. There were parts that dropped down, went deep; places where springs bubbled up, bringing icy-cold water from deep underground. Healing water. Water that knew things; water that could change you if you’d let it.
The peat was spongy beneath her feet, but she moved quickly, surely, leaping like a yearling deer.
“There she is!” a man shouted from up ahead of her. And this was not good. She hadn’t expected them to come from that direction. In fact, they were coming from all directions. And there were so many more of them than she’d expected. She froze, panicked, as she looked at the circle forming around her, searching for an opening, a way out.
She was surrounded by men from the sawmill, men who stood around the potbelly stove at the general store, men who worked for the railroad, men who farmed. And there were women, too. This she should have expected, should have seen coming, but somehow hadn’t.
When a child’s life is lost, it’s the mother who bears the most grief, the most fury. The women, Hattie knew, might be more dangerous than the men.

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The Invited 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 42 reviews.
Anonymous 8 months ago
Awesome story! Could not put it down!
Anonymous 10 months ago
LitWinner 11 months ago
I received a free digital copy of this book as part of my involvement with Netgalley. All thoughts are my own. I’ve been a fan of Jennifer McMahon’s previous books. All of them offer an engrossing read that really gets you enthralled. If I wasn’t sure what to read, McMahon’s books were always a great choice. My only complaint is that several of the covers featured a photo of a young girl, so I would easily get confused about which ones I had read. I call that a reading problem. When I was offered the chance to review The Invited, I didn’t realize it was by Jennifer McMahon at first. I still was excited to read it based on the synopsis, but then realized who the author was and was doubly excited. I was in for a great tale! The Invited offers part suspenseful thriller and part ghost story, with another part mystery. While not mentioned in the synopsis, a girl living near Helen and Nate, Olive, and her aunt figure prominently into the story. I particularly enjoyed McMahon’s introduction of Olive, which I presume is why she’s not mentioned in the blurb. I think my favorite aspect of the book was Helen’s delve into local history. There’s usually always a ton of stories from the past in little towns like this. However, I bet they’re not always as well documented as portrayed in this book, but I think the presence of a factory where many of the town worked would make this possible. But I could also just be stuck in my 1990’s view of local historical societies. I’m sure so much has changed with all of the technology the past 25 years or so has brought us. It’s interesting how Nate and Helen are trying to make this state of the art house that is very much 21st century, but wind up diving into the past to find out more about the area and the people around there. Even as they’re building the house, they are living in a dingy trailer, secluded from the rest of the town. Helen finds salvaged pieces of old houses to add to the house, and Nate isolates himself into the nature that surrounds their home site. I know summer reading tends to be more frivolous and lighthearted, but I feel like The Invited would be the perfect book to bring on a vacation, where you can hopefully get some uninterrupted reading time. Pick up (or download) your copy of The Invited by Jennifer McMahonnofollow and check out her back catalog for even more great reads.
TiBookChatter 11 months ago
Not your typical ghost story. Nate and Helen come to town with the hopes of building their dream house and living out their lives in peace and tranquility. The land they purchased was a good price, secluded, surrounded by nature and… haunted. Helen figures this out fairly quickly but Nate is not convinced even though one bad thing happens after another. As they build their home from scratch, Helen learns of the history behind the land and also gets to know her teen neighbor, Olive, quite well after she attempts to scare them away, pretending to be the ghost of Hattie, a young mother who was hanged for witchcraft years ago. But there is something mysterious going on and both Helen and Olive attempt to get to the bottom of it. Helen, out of curiosity and later, duty. For Olive though, her mother walked away from her and her dad without a trace and she believes the stories surrounding Helen’s land has something to do with it. The Invited was a welcome surprise. It had a little bit of everything and the story was rock solid. Reading it was a nice way to spend a couple of days. I’ve not read this author before but I would absolutely read her again.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous 6 days ago
this author is amazing! buy this book you wont be sorry! i couldnt put it down.
The_Brown_Bookloft 21 days ago
Summary: Helen and Nate decide to give up their hectic suburban lives and move to forty-four undeveloped acres in Vermont. There they live in a dilapidated trailer while building their dream home. Helen had some building experience, having worked with her father doing construction jobs when she was a child. Nate made up for his lack of experience with focused enthusiasm. They were both delighted and surprised with the final purchase price of their property, well below what they expected to pay. They soon learned that the previous owner was anxious to sell after his wife drowned in the bog on the land. The property was also rumored to be haunted by the ghost of Hattie, a witch who was hanged several generations ago. One of their neighbors was a troubled young girl, Olive, whose mother vanished mysteriously. Olive’s father was too enmeshed in grief to pay much attention to his daughter, so Olive was left to wander the neighbors property looking for “Hattie’s Treasure”, which her mother also wanted to find. Olive was determined to scare the new owners away by pretending to haunt them. This only got Helen more interested in the land’s spooky history. She was sure Hattie was guiding her toward objects from the past and the spirit wanted her to incorporate them into the house. As more artifacts are built into their home, Helen sees more ghosts. Nate, too, is chasing an elusive white deer with a variety of gadgets. But is the white deer real or one of Hattie’s incarnations? Comments: The Invited was an interesting twist on a haunted house story. The house is new and becomes increasingly haunted as it is built. This is not a horror tale determined to shock the reader, but rather a much more gentle story. That’s the kind of ghost story I like. Recommended for readers of Mysteries, Paranormal Fiction and stories about ghosts and witches.
LuluRoadsideReader 6 months ago
After reading, and loving, The Winter People, I was beyond chuffed to pick up and review The Invited by Jennifer McMahon. Unfortunately, I believe the expectations were my downfall, and possibly the downfall to others who’ve gone into The Invited after The Winter People. McMahon casts aside the horror and the supernatural in favor of a slow burn Gothic lite suspense novel that was beyond predictable. The Invited suffers due to two major reasons, the expectations set up from McMahon’s The Winter People, and the classification as a horror novel. I love American Gothic as a genre, whether it’s Southern Gothic, PNW Gothic, Southwestern Gothic, etc, etc. I think using the untamed landscape in cohesion with the supernatural to reflect internal horrors, especially within families, is such a great tool that makes for compelling fiction. If The Invited had been marketed as a NE Gothic novel, I honestly might still have been disappointed, but not as much as I was going into this expecting a horror story. I believe The Invited tried to be both and failed to do either convincingly. Olive was a great character and protagonist, possibly the only great character in the novel. She has a driving force that is relatable and a personality that is likable. Apart from Olive, the remaining characters felt one-dimensional caricatures, stand-ins for a cookie cutter plot. We have Nate, the scientific, unbelieving husband, convinced his wife is losing her mind and someone we’re meant to dislike, yet I had only sympathy. He asks his wife, the second protagonist Helen, what would make her happy after the death of her father and then tries to do everything to make it happen. Even as she lies and changes, he remains, desperate to ensure Helen is okay. Helen, meanwhile, I found to be growingly unlikable. Perhaps it was because I understood the plot and ending at about forty percent into the novel, or perhaps it was how obsessed she became with the suffering and deaths of others. She felt a bit like Katherine from The Winter People, secretly selfish leaving a bad taste in the mouth. Where her character started as wanting to build a house to be happy, to remind herself of her father and childhood, she simply became a one-dimensional character used solely as the vehicle for McMahon’s plot. Speaking of plot, it was so watered down that it didn’t serve to satisfy as either a Gothic novel, or a horror novel — barely even worked as a mystery. Readers can guess exactly what the plot is within the first thirty to forty percent of the novel, and once you do, it’s a slow drag to the finish. There’s never a moment of, “Oh! I was wrong!” Instead, it simply became a checking of boxes, counting down until you can finally shout Bingo at the end. The supernatural elements as well were severely lacking, which again, do it a disservice as either a Gothic novel or Horror novel. The supernatural elements felt like garnish on a bland and outdated dish, unnecessary and unable to lift it to the next level. The family secrets were uninspiring, the mystery overdone, and again the characters just could not get it done. When I first started this review, I thought this was a decent book, but the more I think about it, the more I realize just how badly disappointed I am with The Invited by Jennifer McMahon. I can’t blame it solely on expectations being high, or on expecting something along the lines of McMahon’s previous novel. // I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this title. //
Anonymous 7 months ago
I like to think I don't believe in ghosts or anything haunted, but I'm pretty sure I'd start believing if this sequence of events happened to me. Jennifer McMahon has written a much too believable story of how a series of events could lead paranormal beings(?) to your home. Good thing I don't believe!
CindyrellaM 10 months ago
Very good but definitely not a ghost story like The Winter People. There were times I thought it dragged on in spots that could have been a few pages and several words shorter. However, Jennifer McMahon continues to be one of my favorite authors. The characters were interesting and I got to know them quickly at the beginning of the story which helped understand why they did the things they did throughout. This book was more curiosity among the characters as to what they were experiencing rather than the characters being afraid or spooked at what was going on. It was more investigating rather than experiencing spooky encounters.
Anonymous 10 months ago
RRatliff 11 months ago
Helen. Come on now. You can't be this dumb. Continuing to pile dark and sinister objects into your house to bring out the ghosts is like facing a pack of wild hyenas and thinking, if I just talk softly to them and bring treats they will let me pet them and squeeze them. Every time you see the ghost you are filled with dread and your head is filled with screams and when it speaks the sound is like ground up glass. But you just keep going back. And looking for friends for it... The story is not bad, but I had a few problems with it. There's way too much profanity, especially the f* word. Helen and Nate are each falling into growing obsessions, and it's tearing them apart. They each think the other is going slightly off the deep end, but unlike most supernatural stories, there's not a lot of indication as to whether it is the ghost making them insane. If it is, I wish there was a little more foreshadowing, and if it isn't then I'm back to "Come on now Helen, you can't really think this is a good idea..." It generally makes the story better when you are shown with little things along the way that it is the haunting that is pushing them to the edge. I like the side story of Olive and her search for her mom, and I pretty much liked Riley and Olive, but I really don't like Helen. She just comes across as whiny and selfish. And I wish the ghost had been more present throughout the story.
Kristin975 12 months ago
The Invited was a riveting ghost story that surrounds the living in everything they do. Nate and Helen have decided to buy land in a very small town so that they can build their dream house and live off the land. But as they begin building, they notice that their items are going missing--a cell phone, tools, money from their wallets--and they start believing they are being played by the people of the town who think they have stirred up the ghost of Hattie Breckenridge. At the same time, Olive is a teenage girl whose mother left her and her father with no explanation. She believes that Hattie left a buried treasure and if she finds it, it will bring her mother back. For me, The Invited was a good, old-fashioned ghost story that invades the lives of the living. But as the saying goes, don't fear the dead, fear the living.
tlgreear 12 months ago
I have not read any of Jennifer McMahon previous books but this one was definitely a good one to start with. The Invited is an old fashioned ghost story set in modern times. Nate and Helen leave their safe, secure jobs and lifestyle to move to Vermont to build their dream home. After buying a beautiful and surprisingly inexpensive piece of property, they start to make their dream come true. But suddenly life becomes more of a nightmare than a dream. I loved the way McMahon merged the past and the present to create a story that draws the reader in. The Invited seemed like a true story, it could really happen! The character are real, the descriptions of the settings are vivid and the emotions aren’t exaggerated. The book is so well written that I stopped seeing the words and felt like I was watching a movie. I was there! And I did not see the ending coming! Shocker!! I gave The Invited 4 stars because I don’t care for the f bomb regardless of the situation. I voluntarily received a copy of this book from Netgalley.
Momma_Becky More than 1 year ago
I went into this one expecting, and hoping, for a scary, send me hiding under the covers story. The beginning had me excited, but as we move to the present, I realized that while The Invited is eerie at times, it is not that scary tale I was looking for. It is well-written, and the author certainly knows how to create atmosphere in a story. The characters are interesting and we get what I would consider mystery light, but the most intriguing part of this one for me was the history of the land and what happened there. In the end, the book did hold my interest, but it lacked that oomph that I was hoping for. I think some will enjoy it more than others, and those looking for a horror story will be disappointed. As for me, the story was worth the read and left me somewhere in the fair to midland range.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have read and for the most part really enjoyed all of McMahon's books for adults. Any time that I hear of a new one hitting the shelves, I am always eager to get my hands on a copy! And I did like this one, though I don't think that I would count this as amongst my very favorites of hers to date. Told from multiple perspectives, this novel mainly alternates between Helen, a history teacher who along with her teacher husband, are taking a break to spend Helen's inheritance on building their dream home, and Olive, a fourteen year old girl who is their nearest neighbor and is still devastated by her mother's disappearance the year before. Helen begins to be obsessed with the local legend of the witch who was hanged on their new property. Hattie is their town's scapegoat for all ills and Helen's dream house begins to turn more into what others would call a nightmare house as Helen tracks down more about Hattie herself and the local history. It's an interesting and rather unique concept for a novel. Though the events taking place in 1924 may give some readers pause at this large date. Plus, it seems like some of the research would have been even easier considering a starting point at less than 100 years old. Olive's storyline was a bit predictable, with some parts that really didn't have the full motivation that you would expect. But, I still enjoyed this and am, as always, looking forward to seeing what McMahon will follow this one up with!
jnmegan More than 1 year ago
Jennifer McMahon’s gothic novel, The Invited, is a suspenseful and atmospheric ghost story that lures the reader in like the haunted bog that provides its setting. The book opens in 1924 Vermont with Hattie Breckenridge on the day of her death just as she had predicted it – hunted down and hung by the townspeople accusing her of witchcraft. The novel then flashes forward to the current day with Helen and Nate, a young couple who have left their teaching jobs to embark on a back-to-the-land endeavor. They try to dismiss the local rumors about Hattie’s ghost haunting their property, but they quickly begin to experience strange sights and sounds as they build their new home. Both disbelieve the other’s account, becoming obsessed and secretive as they follow their separate paths in order to provide proof. Meanwhile, their young neighbor, Olive, is seeking some answers of her own on the land. Olive is coping with her mother’s sudden disappearance and suspects it is possibly tied to a hidden treasure that Hattie may have left behind. Each chapter of The Invited is titled after a phase of construction, and building/demolition metaphors are threaded throughout the novel. As Helen and Nate work to erect a house that recalls the past, the surrounding town and its actual historical remnants seem to have been reduced to rubble. Salvaging both information and artifacts about Hattie and her descendants, Helen visits the sites that relate to their tragic lives. Just as secrets and mistrust have destroyed the foundations of these actual structures, they also are threatening to erode Helen and Nate’s relationship. The Invited is nicely paced and plotted, with some genuine surprises and interesting diversions. Fans of supernatural tales or meandering mysteries will find Jennifer McMahon’s newest release a chilling and satisfying addition to her body of work.
Caroldaz More than 1 year ago
Nate and Helen decide to leave their life in the city and buy land to build their dream house. They settle in an area known to be haunted by Hettie, an alleged witch who was hanged from a tree nearby. Helen and Nate both become somewhat enchanted with the history, Nate more interested in the wildlife and Helen more interested in learning more about Hattie. As Helen learns more about Hettie, she is sure that she has a link with her and Hettie is asking her to find someone or something. The local residents are not happy that Nate and Helen seem to be stirring things up. A good spooky story! I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I had been looking forward to this book coming out for a while and it was well worth the wait! I love a good ghost story that sucks you in from the beginning. Looking forward to more books by this author.
bamcooks More than 1 year ago
vickimarie2002 More than 1 year ago
I love a good ghost story and that's what this is. It sucked me in and left me wanting to know Harris's whole story! There's lots of twists and turns and ends up being a surprising ending. Helen and Nate have a relationship that is so lifelike and Olive is a great character as well. This is the first Jennifer McMahon book I've ever read and I enjoyed her writing. It wasn't as spooky as I was expecting though.
Linda romer More than 1 year ago
Loved The Invited! A great horror story that I think would make a great movie. I loved the Authors writing style as I could picture each scene clearly in my head. I was shocked by the ending. Looking forward to reading more of this Authors work.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I've been looking forward to this book for a year and it did not disappoint!
SheTreadsSoftly More than 1 year ago
The Invited by Jennifer McMahon is a highly recommended ghost story. Helen and Nate Wetherell decide to leave city life behind and buy forty-four acres in rural Vermont where they plan to build their dream house by themselves. When they discover that the property has a dark past and a reputation for being haunted, former history teacher Helen begins to research the life of Hattie Breckenridge, the woman who lived and died there a century ago. Hattie is said to haunt the land and surrounding bogs. Helen not only researches Hattie's life, but that of her descendants too, three generations of "Breckenridge women." There seems to be more to their deaths than the locals are admitting... And who is trying to scare them off? While their neighbor, fourteen-year-old Olive Kissner, admits to some stunts, she is not responsible for all of them. While this is a ghost story, it is also very much a mystery. And, while this is a ghost story, it is not a horror story, although horrific things do happen by the hands of the living. It is also the story of seeking a treasure, that may or may not be real, and this is also reflected on several levels in the narrative. There is definitely tension that slowly builds and the mystery and questions expand gradually, slowly building to a surprising, shocking conclusion. McMahon is an exceptional writer and I always look forward to her novels. The characters are all well-developed and you will feel empathy for all of them. Following Helen's investigations and discoveries is just as compelling as following Olive's inquiries. The pacing is perfect. The disclosure of more information is closely tied to the incremental odd occurrences and new developments. The tension builds, not with nail-biting horror, but with a subtle feeling someone might be in the room with you, and what was that noise, and is that what I think it is? The real story behind the ghost story, is a tragedy and perhaps the truly frightening part of the tale. While I loved other novels by McMahon more, this is still a very good novel and a perfect choice for a rainy day and foggy night. Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.