A First Look at Linden MacIntyre’s New Novel, The Winter Wives

From the start, the novel reads like a modern-day Canadian twist on The Great Gatsby.

Linden MacIntyre has established himself in the Canadian zeitgeist twice over. First he spent nearly 25 years holding corporations and politicos to account as co-host of CBC’s The Fifth Estate. Then, in his 50s, he started writing hard-hitting novels. The Bishop’s Man, his moody bestseller about corruption and pedophilia in a Nova Scotia Catholic diocese, won the Scotiabank Giller Prize in 2009.

What you can expect from Linden MacIntyre’s new novel

MacIntyre’s latest book, The Winter Wives ($35, Penguin Random House Canada), is set in Ontario, Florida, and (once again) Nova Scotia, and follows a tangled quartet of baby boomers over some 40-odd years. There’s Byron, who overcame his hardscrabble childhood in a lobster-fishing family to become a small-town lawyer in his Maritime hometown, and his best friend, the handsome, athletic Allan Chase, who grew up rich and gets even richer when he drops out of university to become a real estate magnate.

When Allan weds Peggy Winter, the beautiful, unknowable woman Byron has always loved, Byron opts for the next best thing and marries her quiet, reliable, long-suffering sister, Annie. One day, when the couples are in their 60s, Allan suffers a stroke during a round of golf. While Allan lies in a hospital bed, the cops start poking around—and Byron discovers that he didn’t know his friend as well as he thought he did. Soon he finds himself chasing a trail of deception, double lives and missing millions. At the same time, Byron realizes he’s losing chunks of his own memory and must contend with the legacy of dementia in his family.

Why you’ll love The Winter Wives

From the start, the novel reads like a modern-day Canadian twist on The Great Gatsby. Allan is the gold-dusted-yet-secretive hero against whom Byron measures his masculinity, while Peggy is the dreamy cipher on whom he projects his desires.

Byron seems detached from his life, desperately aloof, trapped under the paralyzing weight of his inferiority complex. Even his name reflects his insecurity—his real name is Angus, but a childhood accident left him with a limp, so Peggy started calling him Byron as a nod to the Romantic poet, who had a club foot.

It’s only as Byron begins to reckon with his memories—and the prospect of losing them—that he begins to discover who he is and how he’s been shaped by buried traumas. MacIntyre specializes in literary mysteries, and The Winter Wives threads that needle perfectly: the mystery part is Byron’s quest to uncover Allan’s secrets, and the literary part is his desperate need to unravel his own.

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Reader's Digest Canada
Originally Published in Reader's Digest Canada