This spiritual novel by Moritsch (The Soul of Yosemite, 2012) tells interweaving stories of wolves and their human advocates.
In December 2013, Sage McAllister lives in a log cabin on a privately owned tract of land in Yosemite National Park. One night, two adult gray wolves appear on her deck. Sage is a former biologist with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, so she knows that the last wolf in California was killed in 1924, making her new visitors quite miraculous. Even more incredible, the wolves speak to her, introducing themselves as Tish and Issa. They explain that they approached her because she’s a writer and they want their story told. In order to help her better record their journey, the wolves gently nip the back of her neck and bring her consciousness into “Wolf Time,” allowing her to take mental excursions into their past. Meanwhile, 11-year-old Blue is about to join Idaho’s hunting culture at the behest of his Uncle Marshall, even though the boy and his 7-year-old sister, Sunny, respect animals and find them beautiful. The siblings discover a wolf den near their house and bring home a sickly, abandoned pup. Can their love for the wolves spread to the ranchers, hunters, and others like Uncle Marshall who seek to exterminate the species? The book eventually connects several characters through a spiritual network that includes deceased wolves and humans who realize that “once fear moves out of a person, compassion can move in.” Ecologist Moritsch delivers an advocacy narrative that initially feels playful. Its use of talking animals will broaden its appeal to middle-grade audiences. Its dreamy prose and shocking statistics, though, will draw in teens and adults; during Sage’s transition to Wolf Time, for example, she says that “It felt as if I descended a long distance...floating backwards down a spiral staircase.” Moritsch goes on to inform readers that in the last century, there have only been two humans allegedly killed by wolves (in 2005 and 2010); domestic dogs, however, “kill between twenty and thirty people every year,” the book notes.
An endearing, if sometimes painful, read for animal lovers and a wake-up call for everyone else.