Review: The Wolf Road by Beth Lewis
Published by Crown on July 5th 2016
Genres: Apocalyptic & Post-Apocalyptic, Psychological, Science Fiction
Source: NetGalley, Publisher
True Grit meets The Road in this postapocalyptic psychological thriller--narrated by a young girl who has just learned that her adopted father may be a serial killer, and that she may be his next victim.
In the remote wilds of a ravaged land, Elka has been raised by a man who isn't her father. Since finding her wandering in the woods when she was seven, he has taught her how to hunt, shoot, set snares and start fires--everything she needs to survive. All she knows of the world outside is gleaned from whispers of a cataclysmic event that turned the clock back on civilization by a hundred and fifty years and reduced governments and technology to shambles, leaving men at the mercy of the elements--and each other.
Everything changes when Elka learns that the man she has been calling father is harboring a terrible secret. Armed with nothing but her knife and her wiles, she decides to escape his clutches and sets out on a long journey to the frozen north in the hope of finding her long-lost parents.
But as the trail of blood and bodies grows in her path, Elka realizes that daddy won't be letting his little girl go without a fight. If she's going to survive, she'll have to turn and confront not just him, but the truth about what he's turned her into.
The Wolf Road is a brutal and fascinating story that entrenches you in the mind and personality of Elka, a young woman living in a post apocalyptic world that can be harsh and unforgiving. I found her personality and story both riveting and touching. She is far from a sentimental type, quite the opposite really. She is driven by practicality and survival and gives little thought or need for much of anything else. In all honesty, her character has not had the luxury of being able to experience little beyond this.
Lost and on her own at the age of seven, she meets a man she eventually names Trapper. A man who can appear scary to her at times but when it comes down to it, he takes her in, gives her name (Elka) and teaches her all that she knows, takes care of her when she is sick or injured. They live in isolation in the remotes wilds where he teaches her to track, trap, hunt and survive. He becomes not only the largest, but also the only, influence on her as she develops from that lost young girl into a young woman. He also teaches her to fear other humans, solidifying her isolation with him.
As isolated as they typically are, there are some supplies they occasionally need to go to the nearest town for. As Elka grows older, Trapper starts trusting her with this, always making sure she remembers to talk as little as possible and to trust no one. But when she sees a poster with the face of the man she thinks of as “Daddy” (or Trapper) saying he is wanted for murder, her life changes forever.
As Elka flees, she also really comes into her own. She uses what Trapper has taught her, but she also initially has an incredible amount of naivety that comes from living in virtual isolation for most of her life. She really is on a journey where she not only has to fight for her life, but also where she learns about the world she lives in, about herself as well her past. She is faced with having to choose to continue to listen to Trapper’s advice to never trust anyone or learning how and who to trust. She is a solitary being trying to find her way in the world of people and having to come to terms with what she had thought was truth, what she was taught, may not be how things really are.
One thing about this book that I have to question is a structural decision in the story’s presentation. There is a climactic event from the end of the story that is presented at the beginning. I found myself dwelling on this scene throughout the entire novel. I am still quite undecided if it helped or hurt my reading experience. On one hand, it handed me an ending ahead of time, sort of dulling some mystery and suspense. On the other hand, I was quite focused on how the story would find its way to that point. I will never know if I would have enjoyed this story more or less had that scene been presented chronologically, but I have to admit it is something I wondered about. Overall, I did really enjoy the book, so if it hurt the story at all, it certainly wasn’t by much.
This is an incredible story of one young woman’s remarkable journey for survival, truth and justice. Her character is genuine, her experiences are brutal. This is a book that will stick with me for a long time to come, and the author is definitely one to watch. Highly recommend.