Book Review: 'Wintering'

May 30, 2017

This review originally aired on October 31, 2016.

Midwestern writer Peter Geye told me he titled his third novel Wintering “because it speaks to what all these characters are doing: hunkering down and readying themselves for what the world has to offer.”

The story begins when the elderly Harry Eide wanders off into the bitter woods outside Gunflint, Minnesota, and doesn’t return. The facts of Harry’s life are revealed through conversations between Harry’s son and his late-in-life lover. This style provides an intimacy for the reader that keeps us deeply engaged in the generational feuds, betrayals, failures and successes that occur in small communities.  

The book opens ominously: “Our winters are faithful and unfailing and we take what they bring, but this season has tested even the most devout among us... thirty-two degrees below zero. I can hear the pines exploding.”  

Harry’s story also begins in the winter. It’s 1963 when Harry and his 18-year-old son Gus head off into the wilderness, across the icy Minnesota lakes in search of an old fort, rumored to be intact. Packs fully stocked; paddles, rods, and a Remington strapped to their canoes, a compass and matches at the ready, both men will return from the arduous journey vastly different from who they were when setting out.

Even though the conversational narrative style of Wintering can be confusing at times, Peter Geye has written a novel about how landscape defines who we are, establishing himself as an important Midwestern author, deserving a place on the shelf alongside William Stafford and Willa Cather.

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