Fiction 2021 | 258 pages
A wolf biologist named Inti leads a rewilding project in Scotland to re-introduce wolves into the wilderness of the highlands. She are her silent twin sister Aggie move there from Alaska, bringing with them so much pain and trauma, the reader cannot helped but be deeply touched.
Of course, it is complicated. The local farmers and ranchers fear for their livestock. They hate and are compelled to kill the wolves. The animosity between Inti and the locals, who have been on this land for centuries, can be vicious and violent. And yet, the work Inti is doing is so needed.
A completely fascinating and complex character, Inti has Mirror-touch Synesthesia, a rare neurological condition. She experiences, she feels, what the other feels. If you stub your toe and she is looking at you, her toe hurts. If you are thrown from a horse, she feels the sharp pain in your arm and butt. If you are tenderly kissed, she experiences that in her lips. This is an unimaginable existence.
Once There Were wolves is extremely hard to read. Not that it is badly written. Actually, it is beautifully written, with fine turns of the phrase, deep character development, and compelling content, including mystery. McConaghy manages not to platitudinize, and yet addresses a vital environmental issue. It is difficult to read because it is dark, harrowing, depressing, debasing. Humans and animals are murdered, as is the soul and spirit of Aggie (and Inti?)
I am so moved by this book. Moved by how we humans have removed wolves and harmed the planet immensely. Moved by the deep love between two sisters that is nearly incomprehensible. Moved by the power and fortitude within us to kill when killing is necessary, and to love even when love is devastating.
As I state above, this is not an easy read. And yet it is a powerful, almost necessary read. I will watch closely for your comments. Please read this novel, which is overflowing with truth, and tell me what you think … and how you feel.
(I think it is Rynda I must thank for this suggestion; one of the Wise Owls, certainly.)