It is fascinating to see how Jodi Picoult makes her characters come alive. One of the main characters, Luke Warren, is lying in a hospital bed, in a coma throughout this entire novel, and so Ms. Picoult has to make him come alive via interior monologue. What is brilliant about this technique is that the reader becomes privy to the thoughts of this Wolf handler, while he remains silent to all the other characters.
And so we know that he obsesses over his wolves, recounting in detail his experiences following a wolf pack along the St. Lawrence River in Canada for two years, while he dishes out observations about wolves, and how they interact with humans. Never once does he mention his “pack”, his long-suffering wife who leaves this arid relationship for the arms of an eager lawyer, his newly-adult son who fled six years ago in the wake of painful truths about his father he couldn’t bear to share with his mother and sister, or even his daughter, who is so loyal and loving towards the father that she still worships.
It is as if these people don’t exist. At least, not in his mind.
While he obsesses about wolves, his family is trying to come to terms with the fact that he may never wake up, and what they should do about it. And so their voices interweave with his.
I love Jodi Picoult novels (especially her later ones) but this one left me cold.
Maybe it was because instead of being fascinated by the wolves, I reacted with a mixture of distaste and disbelief.
It made my skin crawl to think of Luke Warren squatting on the ground between his wolf brothers and sisters eating raw meat.
It was hard to imagine anyone – even someone as adoring as Luke Warren – allowing a wolf to squeeze his throat shut without freaking out and running for the hills.
Even the courtroom drama didn’t seem as interesting in this one. Four stars.
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