By Julie Kish
Book: The Winter Wives
Author: Linden MacIntyre
Publisher: Penguin Random House Canada, 2021
By Julie I was introduced to Canadian Literature in high school and developed a love and appreciation for the writing style and themes unique to Canadian authors. This was when I became an avid Margaret Atwood fan because I admired how she bravely tackled topics that were considered scandalous at the time.
I have recently discovered another Canadian author who isn’t afraid to write about controversial topics. The Winter Wives is the fantastic new novel from bestselling author Linden MacIntyre.
There’s a lot going on in MacIntyre’s thrilling psychological drama. The novel explores childhood trauma, assisted suicide, sexual consent, drugs, lies, and everything in between. MacIntyre also expertly examines the terror of losing one’s mind to dementia and tackles the age-old question: How well can we really know someone?
The novel is about two old friends, Allan and Byron, who first met in university. Allan was a football star who got the girl and built a successful business. Byron, a quiet man who is lame from a childhood injury, lost the girl he loved to Allan (but married her sister). After university Allan travels the world to find his fortune and Byron, a modestly successful lawyer stays on the family farm in Nova Scotia to care for his mother with Alzheimer’s.
The men get together for a weekend of golfing and tragically Allan suffers a stroke on the golf course. During his lengthy recovery he loses control of his life and his business empire, which turns out to have been built on lies and the illegal drug trade. As his secrets are revealed it turns out his life isn’t as charmed or as successful as it seemed. Byron is left to pick up the pieces and sort out his tangled relationship with Allan and his twisted relationship with their wives, the Winter sisters. Byron married one sister but believed the other one was the love of his life. The theme of unrequited love is woven throughout the novel.
MacIntyre has mastered the art of storytelling in this novel that is difficult to put down. The setting of the story switches back and forth between Nova Scotia and Toronto, which gives me a sense of familiarity. I wish more Canadian authors would use Canada as the setting for their stories.
He writes straight-forward dialogue and time shifts that are easy to follow but there is a complexity to this novel that lies beneath the surface. The author creates tortuous and flawed characters that can be both endearing and morally bankrupt. It’s a story that will be difficult to forget.
Linden MacIntyre was an award winning Canadian journalist and broadcaster before he became a novelist. He was the co-host of CBC’s weekly investigative news show The Fifth Estate for almost twenty-five years. His 2009 novel, The Bishop’s Man, won the Scotiabank Giller Prize.