The Next Chapter

Linden MacIntyre examines lies, truth and human nature with new novel The Winter Wives

The author and former CBC journalist spoke with Shelagh Rogers on location in Newfoundland at the Writers at Wood Point Festival.
The Winter Wives is a novel by Linden MacIntyre. (Tom Zsolt, Random House Canada)

Linden MacIntyre is a consummate storyteller. He's been telling stories his whole life — he's exposed many secrets and lies in his work as a journalist, and he lifts up rocks in his writing to reveal the underbelly of institutions and the dark places in the lives of his characters. 

His new novel, The Winter Wives, is the story of two men with a long history: Allan and Bryan. Allan was a football star who got the girl and built a successful business. Bryan is quieter, lost the girl he loved to Allan (but married her sister) and is a modestly successful lawyer.

But when Allan suffers a stroke, all his secrets start to come out. It turns out his life wasn't as charmed or as successful as it seemed — and Bryan is left to pick up the pieces, while figuring out what this all means for his own life.

The former CBC journalist and novelist, whose books include novel The Bishop's Man and the nonfiction book The Wake, spoke on location with Shealgh Rogers at the Writers at Woody Point in Newfoundland about writing The Winter Wives.

Lasting friendships

"Friendships don't always survive experience and time. I think experience and time raise challenges to the friendships — and the really important ones actually do survive. When you examine the significance of a particular friendship, the significance transcends whatever challenge comes up. 

Friendships don't always survive experience and time.

"It doesn't matter whether it's buddies or spouses and partners, you learn things about people as time goes by — and some of the things you learn you say, 'What's this friendship really based on? And this was the case with these two men in the novel."

Dynamic relationships

"Allan is a criminal and has recruited two brilliant accountants — who happen to be the Winter women — to keep him just above the line, which they do. The women both have very interesting moral codes. As accountants, they are not worried about where the money comes from. As long as the books come out clean, the rest of it is between the men. That works for Allan, and it works for Bryan up until a point. This is what tests their friendship and relationships.

The women in the novel were the architecture of the relationship between the two guys, in many ways.

"The women in the novel were the architecture of the relationship between the two guys, in many ways. In both cases, they kept the men out of deep trouble.

"The women are central to the structure of the relationships in the book."

The nature of truth

"The secret of the successful lie is, as Allan tells Bryan early on, is the lie has to have a skeleton of fact. As long as it has that architecture, that skeleton, people will see something credible, even in the biggest lie. 

"So if you're going to tell a lie, or if you're going to survive on a whole practice of lying, the first thing you have to do is figure out a rationale that enables you to live and speak the lie on the basis of consistency. 

The secret of the successful lie is, as Allan tells Bryan early on, is the lie has to have a skeleton of fact.

"Lying beyond that, I believe, is a reality that truth is never an absolute state of reality."

Linden MacIntyre's comments have been edited for length and clarity.

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