A book with a voice I love, The Wolf Road by Beth Lewis is a very literary thriller, a psychological study, and a taut suspense novel. The novel follows Elka, a teenager who discovers that the man who has raised her is a serial killer. Living in a post-apocalyptic world, Elka encounters Trapper, a hunter, as a small child when she gets separated from her nana. Trapper takes her in and teaches her how to survive in the wilds, which are almost a character unto themselves throughout the novel. He’s not a forgiving man, or even a kind one, but Elka looks on him fondly and secretly calls him Daddy…until the day she learns Trapper’s name from a Wanted poster and sees he is wanted for numerous murders. From then on, the book is Elka’s journey, and it’s a cat and mouse game between her and Kreager, who she used to call Trapper.
Elka sets out on her journey, trying to avoid Kreager and the magistrate, Lyons, who is searching for both of them. As she searches, she uses her survival skills, but also encounters things she has no idea what to do with…including other people. Her years spent around Kreager have made her woefully inept when it comes to interacting with and reading other humans.
What made this novel work for me was Elka’s voice. Her voice is unique. It’s rough, and she’s not necessarily a reliable narrator. Her drive and the way she has lived her life and the way she discovers her life on her own all combine to make a compelling character. She’s running, but she’s also searching. She excels in the wild, but comes to realize not all other people are bad. Her journey through the post-apocalyptic world is reminiscent of The Road, but is a different animal as well. It’s suspenseful at times, enlightening at others, and she faces challenges on her journey that are unique to her as a woman.
The novel is also very much literary fiction. It’s an incredibly complex and nuanced thriller. It has beautiful passages about the wild. It has quotable passages about humanity. It has characters beyond Elka who are realistic and who follow their own journeys outside of hers. It’s a slow burn of a thriller, with occasional action-packed passages. It’s a book to be savored, including passages like this:
“Monsters ain’t real ‘cept in kids’ imaginations, under the beds, in the closets. We live in a world a’ men and there ain’t no good come out of tellin’ them they monsters. Makes ’em think they ain’t done nothin’ wrong, that it’s their nature, and they can’t do nothin’ to change that. Callin’ ’em a monster makes ’em somethin’ different from the rest of us, but they ain’t. They just men, flesh and bone and blood.”
I found this novel thought-provoking, rich in intensity, and story to be savored. The only drawbacks I had were in getting to appreciate Elka’s voice, which took me awhile, and the beginning is gripping, but it still took me awhile to get truly invested. Overall, I found it to be a good read. It’s a story of heartache, trauma, loss, and pain, but also hope and healing. Elka is fascinating and compelling as she tries to balance out her wildness with her humanity.
I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for a review.
Have you read The Wolf Road? Love it? Hate it? Adding it to your TBR? Let me know in the comments!
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars