Winter’s Wife by Elizabeth Hand

Every once in a while, I get the urge to drop everything and move back to Michigan in order to live in a shack. Winter’s Wife is not about Michigan; it’s about Maine. I’ve never been to Maine, but based on the stunning descriptions in this story, it sounds a lot like Michigan but with an ocean and an obsession with seafood instead of venison. I may be way off mark here on this, but now I’m thinking Maine might be lovely, too.

I’ll be the first to admit I’ve got a small love affair going on with magical realism. There’s something about stories that start out ordinary and then skew themselves into a strange and peculiar fantasy. The dovetail here is well worth the wait, which I don’t always think is the case.

Our narrator is an astute observer, despite being a 15-year-old boy named Justin. He’s quite grown up, but that’s not a mistake. I was practically an infant when I was 15, and he does have friends who are about as equally mature as I was. It helps explain why the eccentric, self-reliant Winter spends so much time with the boy. Justin himself has no father, but Winter is happy to fill the role, an observation his new wife is quick to make.

As odd as it feels to say this, Winter’s Wife is ultimately a story about revenge. It doesn’t feel like a revenge story, but there you have it. It reads more like an ethereal tale of a specific place, instead. But this is crucial to understanding the vengeance and anger the story reaches. Though it never feels truly angry, either. That’s part of it’s charm.

Winter’s Wife original appeared in the anthology Wizards: Magical Tales from the Masters of Modern Fantasy, but is also included in Elizabeth Hand’s short story collection Errantry: Strange Stories.

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