The Winter Wives by Linden McIntyre

Linden McIntyre’s troubling, captivating novel, The Winter Wives, takes the reader on a murky voyage through a world of shifting allegiances, fluid identities, moral ambiguities, hidden agendas, and plenty of closely guarded secrets. The story begins in the present day, with long-time friends and business partners Byron and Allan on the golf course. This is Byron’s story, and he describes with distressing immediacy the moment when Allan collapses at the tee. Allan has suffered a stroke, an event that not only sets in motion everything that follows, but which also brings the notion of mortality alarmingly into focus for everyone involved. 

Allan and Byron have known each other for decades, having met while both were attending an east-coast university. It’s an unlikely alliance. Allan—brash, athletic, ambitious—later quits university and embarks on a business career, an enterprise that seems to involve a veneer of legitimate undertakings masking some truly unsavoury activities, but which nonetheless makes him rich and takes him around the world. Byron—unassuming, smart, self-conscious about his limp, which is the result of a childhood accident—obtains a law degree but stays in Nova Scotia to nurse his mother through her struggle with Alzheimer’s. Early in his career, disillusioned with a position at a law firm that’s leading nowhere, Byron allows Allan to recruit him into the business. The other partners in the story are Annie (married to Byron) and Peggy (married to Allan). They are sisters and, by profession, accountants. Both work for Allan. Both seem to know more than they let on to Byron.  

Byron, our narrator, is shaped and haunted by the accident that scarred him for life. The precise circumstances of what happened are elusive: the violence of the incident has stayed with him, but his recall is limited to a few flickering, fragmented images. He has no one to ask since his mother refused to talk about it, and, with her passing, all the participants other than him are dead. In the absence of certainty, he’s left with suspicion and innuendo. 

McIntyre’s novel chronicles, over many years, the complex interweaving of business affairs, money, physical attraction, and emotional commitment among the four main players. Trust is an ever-present motif in this narrative journey, the erosion of which leads to intrigue and betrayal.  

As time goes by, physical decline rears its ugly head: Allan’s stroke and mental impairment, Byron’s memory troubles and his growing fear that he’ll share his mother’s fate and lose himself to dementia. But even when all seems lost, circumstances can change, the balance of power can shift, and as Allan’s business empire crumbles and damaging secrets are dragged into the light of day, Byron finds there’s an advantage to be had in standing back and letting people believe what they want to believe. As we approach an inevitable reckoning, Peggy and Annie seem to have gained control, but have they really?   

Linden MacIntyre’s novels are populated by flawed characters who act selfishly, who are weak, who drink too much, and who regret their actions when it’s far too late to make any difference.  The Winter Wives follows a similar pattern. The world of this novel harbours shocking secrets in abundance and most of the relationships are built on lies. For these people, deception is a way of life. It may be lurid, but it makes for an extravagant, large-scale entertainment that leaves us pondering what it means to really know another person.

LINDEN MacINTYRE’s bestselling first novel, The Long Stretch, was nominated for a CBA Libris Award and his boyhood memoir, Causeway: A Passage from Innocence, won both the Edna Staebler Award for Creative Non-fiction and the Evelyn Richardson Award. His second novel, The Bishop’s Man, was a #1 national bestseller, won the Scotiabank Giller Prize, the Dartmouth Book Award and the CBA Libris Fiction Book of the Year Award, among other honours. The third book in the loose-knit trilogy, Why Men Lie, was also a #1 bestseller as well as a Globe and Mail “Can’t Miss” Book. His novels Punishment and The Only Cafe were also national bestsellers, as was his 2019 work of non-fiction, The Wake. A distinguished broadcast journalist, MacIntyre, who was born in St. Lawrence, Newfoundland, and grew up in Port Hastings, Cape Breton, spent twenty-four years as the co-host of the fifth estate. He has won ten Gemini awards for his work. MacIntyre lives in Toronto with his wife, CBC radio host and author Carol Off. They spend their summers in a Cape Breton village by the sea.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Random House Canada (Aug. 10 2021)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 344 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0735282056
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0735282056

Ian Colford’s short fiction has appeared in many literary publications, in print and online. His work has been shortlisted for the Thomas H. Raddall Atlantic Fiction Award, the Journey Prize, the Danuta Gleed Literary Award, and others. His latest novel, The Confessions of Joseph Blanchard, was the winner of the 2022 Guernica Prize and was published by Guernica Editions in 2023. He lives in Halifax.