This beautifully written book held my attention throughout the story, but I’m not sure how I felt about the ending.
British Rachel Caine has been living in Nez Perce, Idaho for the past ten years, tracking and studying wolves on the (fictional) Chief Joseph Reservation. She goes back to the Cumbria district in England at the behest of a wealthy landowner, who wants to recruit her to oversee the introduction of wolves on his very large estate. She doesn’t want the job and returns to Idaho, but then, during a New Year’s Eve celebration, she gets pregnant by her best friend and co-worker at Chief Joseph. She decides to go to England, take the job, and have an abortion, but once in England finds she wants to keep the baby.
Observations of lupine behavior alternate with Rachel’s personal story, all embedded in glorious evocations of the wild landscape around her. While Rachel cares deeply about her wolves, she is oddly dispassionate about other human beings. She becomes close to her brother Lawrence when back in Cumbria, and more tied to her new child than she thought possible. And yet, her distance from everyone keeps us distant as well. Moreover, it affects our feelings about Rachel. To what does she owe the child’s father? Or the local veterinarian with whom she develops a bit of a relationship (the effort is mostly on his side – she shies away when he tries to get closer, as when he brought her flowers). She seems to fear that “domestication” would be as harmful to her as it is to wild wolves.
In the end, after a run-up of rather suspenseful events in which all the issues explored in the book come together, we get only the hint of a resolution. I would have liked to learn how the author felt about some of the existential questions she posed in the book.
Published by Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2015