Wintering by Peter Geye intrigued me because of the title. We are heading into winter so it seemed appropriate. It also returns me to the northern Minnesota woods and deals with generations and survival in nature. It’s about living in harsh conditions, surviving in harsh conditions, and loving in harsh conditions. This is a sad love story. A love story that is eked out after hate has run its course. It involves four generations: Odd, Harry, Gus, and Tom Eide, and the complicated story of their women and family: fathers and sons, infidelity, forgiveness, and the passing on of history to the next generation.
Who are we and how did we get here? Why do we have to wander in the wilderness for so long and so slowly like glaciers? Although Voyageurs are real people who wandered the Minnesota lakes, the metaphor cannot be lost on any of us and about our quest to discover ourselves.
A father, Harry, and his son, Gus, travel in the Minnesota north woods on the lakes in canoes the father made. They are following the maps the father made to find a fort in the middle of nowhere. They are doing what the Voyageurs have done before them. But it is mostly lies, the reason for the trip, the maps, and the fort. The father is running into the wilderness with his son to draw his enemy out into this domain and away from the comfort of his enemy. This is another Into the Wild adventure of sorts. The reason for the conflict in this remote village near Lake Superior is because of women, their photographs and their portraits and men’s desires. In the privacy of the wilderness all the secrets ooze out. The denouement is the finding of hundred year old letters in a safe hidden in the wall of an apothecary shop that is being converted into a historical museum of the town and of the families, especially the Eides’, providing clarity about the past and a clue as to how they got here today. It is not just another well-told tale of a dysfunctional family; it is a tale of unrequited love. Love isn’t something to mess with. Don’t play hard to get or you never get gotten. Don’t wait for the right moment cause the right moment is now. When a conversation should continue, don’t excuse yourself and go home alone. The saddest love story is one told of regrets and should haves. I’m not just talking about love between a man and a woman, but also about the love of a parent and a child. Love is a lot harder than hate. This is what makes us dysfunctional, hating more than loving; not loving for fear of the pain of loss is dysfunctional. The lesson is to grab at love when it is right there in front of you instead of walking away from it. Be proactive. Bring the flowers. Be vulnerable. Be engaged in your life and love and discard hate, fear, and second thoughts. Life is too short to not share it with another. Winter is always followed by spring for a reason.