The hard life of a wolf is believeably depicted in this impressive first novel. Bowen slips into the skin of Marta as if born in a den herself. Marta lives in Pleasant Valley with her mate Calef and a second male, Oldtooth, who help keep her first litter of three pups fed. But one day Calef doesn't return, apparently having been slain by humans. Oldtooth, whose teeth are nubbins since he chewed himself free from a steel trap, can kill only small game. So Marta, whose pups are starving, must go on the hunt herself. The reader may at first suspect that this is yet another overly sentimentalized animal saga, but that fear quickly passes. To be sure, Bowen's wolves do have names, and her descriptions of deer slayings, while exciting, play down the gore. Marta's dazed joy at stuffing herself on soft organs, intestines, and summer fat, however, is refreshingly frank. Marta becomes of necessity the alpha wolf, the leader of her small pack, her sinew pulsing with life and limitless will. One cub disappears. Then the whole pack is trapped, sedated, and flown to a new home in the Northern Rockies, where they awaken amid the frightening scent of grizzlies. Marta runs in fear, abandoning her family, until she finds a new home unmarked by the huge bears. Left to themselves, the two cubs die of hunger, and Oldtooth, reduced to killing cattle, gets shot to death. Marta meets Greatfoot, a male, and the two form a pack, the lone wolves for hundreds of miles about. Soon they are den-hunting and Malta litters seven pups. The climax is believable, terrible, tragic, and a full frontal attack on all of the feelings you distance yourself from while watching predators on PBS. A universe beyond Disney, and moving indeed. Keep the Kleenex handy.