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by Michael Winter

Pub Date: Feb. 25th, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-14-318781-3
Publisher: Pintail/Penguin

The “minister” of the title is Henry Hayward, who is searching for love, meaning and acceptance.

Winter sets his novel in two seemingly incongruous places: Afghanistan and Newfoundland. At the beginning of the narrative, Hayward’s longtime girlfriend has broken up with him, leaving his life in a state of spiritual disarray. Looking to do something to forget, he links up with Rick Tobin, a contractor doing work in Afghanistan—primarily repairing water and sewer lines and doing waste management for Canadian forces. Accompanying Hayward is his buddy John Hynes, and in Kabul, they link up with an old friend from trade school, Patrick “Tender” Morris, now serving in the army reserves. After a few months working on a lucrative contract, they experience disaster when a suicide bomber blows up their Jeep and kills Tender. Hayward is overcome with grief and guilt, and he goes home to Canada, where he seeks out Martha Groves, a physiotherapist who was Tender’s girlfriend. Henry and Martha are drawn to each other by their mutual affection for Tender, and after initially resisting their obvious mutual attraction, they become lovers. An additional complication is that Martha is pregnant with Tender’s child, but Henry vows to set up a home for what he hopes will become a family. He begins work renovating a summer place near John and his family, but legal restrictions and machinations complicate his plan. To recover some point to his life, he hopes to surround himself with a “community of 100” who will provide mutual support and sustenance.

Winter’s narrative will appeal to those who like slow-paced fiction focusing on friends, family and healing.