The Wolf Road by Beth Lewis
“All I know is that one day all the maps became useless and we had to make our own. The old’uns called the day the Fall or the Reformation. Nana said some down in the far south called it the Rapture. Nana was a babe when it happened, said her momma called it the Big Damn Stupid. Set everything back to zero.”
The Big Damn Stupid is a mostly unexplained apocalyptic war event that seems to have sent the world back to a time with no technology, rudimentary civilization, and society being at the mercy of Mother Nature. When a very large and damaging storm ravages a small town, a seven year old girl is left an orphan. Cold, frightened and starving…she happens upon a small shack in the woods owned by a reclusive man she comes to call Trapper. The mysterious man takes the girl in, names her Elka, and he soon begins to teach her everything he knows about survival in the great unforgiving wilderness that is now home. Elka learns to hunt, trap, start fires, build a shelter and most importantly…she learns to fear other people and to lead a solitary life.
After a decade of Elka living with Trapper, she not only relies on him…she comes to view him as her teacher and a father figure. Trapper is all Elka knows as she remembers very little from her life before meeting him. But one day, Elka learns of Trapper’s very sinister and secret life….he is a wanted serial killer, hiding from the law. Now that Elka knows the truth about the only father figure she’s ever known, she fears she may be in danger of being his next victim. Armed with nothing but her survival knowledge and a knife, Elka flees the only home and security she’s known into the bitter North… in search of her birth parents who left her to her grandmother when she was only a baby. But judging by the trail of blood that seems to be following her, Elka soon realizes that she’s not alone…and that Trapper is not going to let her go without a fight. If she is going to survive, Elka will have to learn the difference between people that can be trusted and those that can’t. She will also have to confront the very dark truth of the sinister path that she has been set on.
“Monsters ain’t real ‘cept in kids’ imaginations, under the beds, in the closets. We live in a world a’ men and there ain’t no good come out of tellin’ them they monsters. Makes ’em think they ain’t done nothin’ wrong, that it’s their nature and they can’t do nothin’ to change that. Callin’ ’em a monster makes ’em somethin’ different from the rest of us, but they ain’t. They just men, flesh and bone and blood. Bad’uns, truth, but men all the same.”
The Wolf Road was a little difficult for me to get into at first, specifically due to it’s writing style. Told in the first person, this novel is narrated completely inside Elka’s head…and due to the fact that she is completely uneducated and illiterate, some of the writing takes some getting used to. However, one I did get used to Elka’s voice, I found the prose of this novel so authentic and perfect. Once I was a few chapters in, I found myself not wanting to put this book down. Elka is such a wonderful, strong & endearing voice….she kind of reminds me a little of Scout in To Kill A Mockingbird.
Even though, technically, this novel has a post-war ravaged desolate setting…I wouldn’t consider this a “post apocalyptic” genre book….it’s more of a PA with a twist of a wild west to it. That apocalypse is really only used as an explanation for the way a few certain situations play out, but it’s definitely not the main theme of the story. In fact, if it weren’t for the mention of the “Big Damn Stupid” happening, the reader could easily assume this novel takes place over a hundred years ago. So if you are a reader who doesn’t usually care for the typical post-appocalyptic genre or even if you feel like you’ve read too many with that theme lately…not to worry….the message of this book goes so far beyond just the setting. The Wolf Road is a gripping cat-and-mouse tale with lessons on redemption, revenge and forgiveness….all played out against an unforgiving wild landscape. It’s narrated by a tenacious, capable and tough young heroine who you cannot help but root for and come to love! I’m fairly certain that Elka has earned her place as one of my many favorite strong and memorable character voices.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this story and definitely recommend it. This is a fantastic brand new (published July, 2016) debut from an author that I’m sure we will be hearing more about in the near future!
*** I would like to thank Blogging For Books for a print copy of this book in exchange for my review***.
My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars