Once There Were Wolves

- Charlotte McConaghy

GOODREADS BOOK BLURB:

Inti Flynn arrives in Scotland with her twin sister, Aggie, to lead a team of biologists tasked with reintroducing fourteen gray wolves into the remote Highlands. She hopes to heal not only the dying landscape, but Aggie, too, unmade by the terrible secrets that drove the sisters out of Alaska.

Inti is not the woman she once was, either, changed by the harm she’s witnessed—inflicted by humans on both the wild and each other. Yet as the wolves surprise everyone by thriving, Inti begins to let her guard down, even opening herself up to the possibility of love. But when a farmer is found dead, Inti knows where the town will lay blame. Unable to accept her wolves could be responsible, Inti makes a reckless decision to protect them. But if the wolves didn’t make the kill, then who did? And what will Inti do when the man she is falling for seems to be the prime suspect?

GENRES:

FIRST WORDS:

When we were eight, Dad cut me open from throat to stomach.

MY REVIEW:

solid, good read:
4/5

This is the second book in the last month where I’ve gone in with a half-formed idea of the plot, only to be proven incredibly wrong. Like Fable, I’m happy to be wrong when it comes to Once There Were Wolves.

"I’ll alert the villagers to lock up their wives and daughters. The big bad wolves are coming."
I meet his eyes. "If I were you I’d be more worried about the wives and daughters going out to run with the wolves."

Once There Were Wolves is overwhelmingly dark and disturbing. While there are almost elements of magical realism here due to Inti’s mirror-touch synesthesia and the folklore of wolves as a species, the truly scary part of Once There Were Wolves is how mundane and pervasive the danger is. Because it’s our society and the villains who hide in plain sight that make it so hard to trust anyone.

“He’s a monster,” I say.
“You’re giving him too much credit. He’s just a man,” Duncan says.
“That’s dangerous. That’s how you let people do terrible things.”
He doesn’t take to this. “I’m not minimizing. It’s just that if you paint a picture of him as a monster then you make him mythical, but men who hurt women are just men. They’re all of us. Too fucking many of us and all too human. And the women they hurt aren’t passive victims, or Freud’s masochists who like to be punished either. They’re all women, and all they’re doing, minute by minute, is strategizing how best to survive the man they loved, and that’s not a thing anyone should have to do.”

These characters are so wonderfully human. They have histories that influence their personalities and shape their complexity. Likeable characters are not always likeable and brash characters may have moments of grace. People make mistakes, and others try to fix them, often making them worse. Misunderstandings and miscommunication abound, but they occur naturally and not due to a lack of discussion or attempted explanation.

“Do you think it can ever be?” he asks me softly. “Bred out of a creature?”
“The wild?” I reach to pat the dog and my fingers come very close to his. I want to touch him so badly I could combust. “It happened to us, I think,” I murmur. “Most days I think we couldn’t be farther from it, that it was slowly bred from us until we became more like machines than animals.”
“And the other days?” he asks.
“On the other days,” I say slowly, “I think I will go mad with the wildness.”

There is some unnecessary, though almost understandable, violence that makes it difficult to connect with some of where this story ends – or maybe it’s just how it is dealt with that is difficult to accept. So while it provides closure in a ‘full circle‘ sort of way, it’s not pleasant or easy, and it’s certainly not the outcome you hope for these sisters, the wolves, and even this community.

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