Kerry Hardie’s A Winter Marriage [Little, Brown] is a dark, depressive-yet-impressive relationship-based novel with a surprisingly deep moral message.
Divorced three times and just widowed from her fourth husband, Hannie Bennet, an unapologetic fifty-something career woman, decides to marry next for convenience and financial security. She leaves her teenage son Joss behind in Africa to go prospecting, and ultimately meets Ned Renvyle, a writer and world traveler. And what do you know? Ned's conveniently in search of a wife and companion to live out the golden years in the Irish countryside. Hannie is the type of protagonist a reader judges harshly, but cares for all the same. The book’s strength is its strong development of the characters, and the clever way their interactions illuminate the strengths and weaknesses in each other and themselves.
This initially convenient union, however, quickly becomes Hannie’s private hell. Hannie’s urban tastes and cool sophistication don’t mix with the slow, isolated country folk, and her habits alienate her from her husband and his townspeople (for he grew up there). When her troubled son comes to visit, she must hide a life of lies that threaten the entire village. Hannie eventually finds herself caught in a maelstrom of blackmail, deceit, and violence, forced to make the most impossible choice a mother can confront.
And how to take the title, A Winter Marriage? After all, it can mean so many different things. And like the many layers in Hardie's fiction, it does.