“Elka barely remembers a time before she knew Trapper. She was just seven years old, wandering lost and hungry in the wilderness, when the solitary hunter took her in. In the years since then, he’s taught her how to survive in this desolate land where civilization has been destroyed and men are at the mercy of the elements and each other.
But the man Elka thought she knew has been harboring a terrible secret. He’s a killer. A monster. And now that Elka knows the truth, she may be his next victim.
Armed with nothing but her knife and the hard lessons Trapper’s drilled into her, Elka flees into the frozen north in search of her real parents. But judging by the trail of blood dogging her footsteps, she hasn’t left Trapper behind—and he won’t be letting his little girl go without a fight. If she’s going to survive, Elka will have to turn and confront not just him, but the truth about the dark road she’s been set on.
The Wolf Road is an intimate cat-and-mouse tale of revenge and redemption, played out against a vast, unforgiving landscape—told by an indomitable young heroine fighting to escape her past and rejoin humanity.”
My Thoughts: I love dark and disturbing novels, and The Wolf Road does not disappoint. Everything about the novel is dark. The setting is a post-apocalyptic wasteland still in recovery. The people are scrambling to survive. Justice is brutal and swift. Nature is even more brutal. Trapper’s crimes are unfathomable. Elka’s world is cruel, and the internal struggles she now faces after uncovering the truth add to her misery. It is not a story for the faint of heart.
Elka is a psychologically complex and damaged soul. Trapper was not the most gentle of father figures, and his ideas of child rearing are more forms of torture than care. While she is dealing with and learning the cruel ways of Trapper, the loss of her parents and grandmother weigh heavily on her heart. The very real sense of betrayal she feels at the news about Trapper’s other hobbies only adds to her confusion about good versus evil even at the same time as she questions her own guilt by association. Your heart aches for the struggles this little girl has had to overcome in the few years she has been alive.
At the same time, Elka is not an easy character to like. She is prickly and crude. She is almost misogynistic in her opinions of the “fairer” sex. She is unpredictable and cruel. She is surprisingly whiny, prone to alternating bouts of self-loathing and teenage angst. She is annoying in her hatred of humankind and unfounded judgments of society. In other words, she has all of emotional issues of a teenager with no strong moral upbringing to temper those issues and enough lethal knowledge to make her dangerous to herself and to others.
Unfortunately, there is nothing surprising about The Wolf Road. The story flows as expected with the appropriate amount of setbacks and successes to make the journey worthwhile. There are enough hints and foreshadowing as to the big secrets Elka must discover hiding within herself that they are no longer a surprise by the time she does. Even her interactions with others are predictable. If one is expecting a unique road trip survival story, this is just not it.
Where the story does shine though is in its discussions of nature versus nurture and guilt versus innocence. Everything that happens to Elka or involves her in some way adds to those discussions and makes for a decent study of human nature. While the intent is not to see yourself in Elka, Ms. Lewis does use Elka’s experiences to raise awareness of how we define ourselves and the ambiguity behind the good versus bad moniker. In that regard, The Wolf Road is the type of novel that moves beyond its thriller classification to a study of human nature and self-identity. Because of that, it makes for a decent read, one that could make for a fascinating book club discussion.