Thank you to AudioGo and Audiobook Jukebox for advancing a copy of Little Wolves in audio. This book was (and again I fear I’m sounding like a broken record here) also advanced to us via Net Galley, however (here we go again) it came in PDF format. Therefore, it was great to see it come available in audio. Although the audio version wasn’t the very greatest, overall, Little Wolves was a satisfying read. It’s a story of redemption, mystery, mythology, small town and old family resentment and myth.
It is beautifully described, lyrically written, and slow building and Little Wolves does come to a fairly satisfying finish. It wasn’t at all what I anticipated the story to be about, and there were times when I was slightly confused – confused either by the purpose or by the seemingly lack of connection between all the characters and their stories. Perhaps it was how the ties were sewn up or the tenous threads that bound their stories together that didn’t quite sit right with me? The story builds, slowly, with small pieces revealed over time. And then in those few final chapters you do edge forward in your seat and hang on to find out how it all comes together and end. However, again, I was still left thinking there seemed to be a lack of connection or just that something that would tie everyone and everything together.
From The Reading Room: Set on the Minnesota prairies in 1987, during a drought season that is not helping the demise of the family farms, the story features two intertwining narrators, a father searching for answers after his son commits a heinous murder, and a pastor’s wife who has returned to the town for mysterious reasons of her own. A penetrating look at small-town America, reminiscent of Russell Banks’ “Sweet Hereafter” or “Affliction,” driven by a powerful murder mystery, “Little Wolves” is a page-turning literary triumph.
The description and cover of this book are great right? Still, it wasn’t exactly what I thought it would be, and the “powerful murder mystery” falls a touch flat.
Clara is a motherless child, who grew up listening to her father’s mythical, fantastical tales about wolf children, about a baby being rescued in the valley fields and protected by the wolves and another about a child born with wolf-like features (body covered in dark hair). All these tales were told to Clara by her father as a way to cover up the truth about her mother and what happened that evening so many years ago, leaving her father without a wife, and Clara without a mother. Clara is somewhat obsessed with the stories and dreams of wolves and coyotes and is determined to solve the mystery of her mother’s disappearance.
Clara marries a pastor and has a hand in guiding him to work in this town in Minnesota where she thinks she’ll find the truth concerning her mother. Here, Clara becomes a teacher and continues the teaching of these mythical tales. She teaches her students Beowulf stories, legends and myths. One student that is keen to Clara is Seth Fallon, also a motherless child.
In the opening of the novel, Seth comes to Clara’s home dressed in an long oil-cloth cloak and armed with a sawed-off shotgun. Something inside tells Clara to stay hidden from sight and she does not answer the door. Seth eventually walks away, but then kills the town’s sheriff and then turns the gun on himself. The town is left in turmoil and despair and the long tempered resentment amongst the townfolk bubbles to the surface following these two events.
It’s all this in-between of Seth’s opening actions and Clara’s wolf stories, where things remained in a constant convoluted state for me. Even at the end, the reasons given, the long-simmering hatred between two families, and the mystery surrounding Clara’s mother and her part in this town’s history weren’t fully realized, in my opinion. I was still left with some confusion or understanding when all was revealed. I got it, I mean, I got the role Clara’s mother played in the town’s history, the probable reason for Seth coming to Clara in the opening, I think, but it was really cryptically explained and the ties that bound Seth and Clara (outside of their love for wolves and coyotes and being motherless) and the reasons for Seth becoming involved and doing what he did on that fateful day, are quite tenuously explained, at best.
By the end and after putting aside my frustration with the narrator’s voice, I just lost myself in the beautiful descriptive writing of Maltman. This is where I became most entranced and willing to continue with the story. Everything really is beautifully described, I’m thinking I may have enjoyed this more had I just read the book, instead of listening to the audio.
In regards to the audiobook: This is one of those rare times when I say, just read the book instead. I know right? I never say that! I’m always singing about how you just must listen to this one instead of just reading it. In the beginning I was a little confused to find they chose a female narrator for the story, as there is only one female voice – Clara’s. The whole rest of the cast are almost entirely men, or, it’s told in the male voice. Therefore, when a female narrator attempts to speak in a grovelly, deep, raspy manly voice – it fails. Oh it’s awful. And that was so very distracting for me and very frustrating. Other than that, she did narrate the non-speaking parts fine and I found that it was a much better experience when I put my frustration about her voice aside and just tuned in to the lovely descriptions and details that Maltman uses when he writes.
So, overall, a 3.5 for the story, as it was a satisfying read, but 3 for the narration. Read it, don’t listen to it.