This fictional tale follows a pack of endangered gray wolves fighting for survival as a journalist fights for their protection.
Still reeling from his wife’s tragic death, Chicago-based journalist Jeffrey Reese has temporarily relocated to Montana to report on a subject close to his heart: endangered gray wolves. According to the furious farmers and ranchers in the area, the wolves are dangerous, killing livestock and threatening livelihoods. But Reese knows the intelligent, loyal wolves have more to fear from humans. Reese soon finds his torn heartstrings mending thanks to the beautiful Elizabeth English, who loves the animals despite her rancher father’s aggressive anti-wolf stance. As Reese studies the wolves, even briefly tending to an injured one, the story shifts between his experiences and the saga of a nearby wolf pack: brave leader, Bartok; his devoted brother Lakota; alpha female, Dyami; her precocious son, Yuma; and others. In his debut work, which at times is noticeably similar to Nicholas Evans’ The Loop (1998), Cera’s respect and empathy for his lupine subjects shines through on every page, and his descriptions of nature sparkle. However, the author dictates too clearly who the heroes and villains are, rendering the story more preachy than passionate. The wolf characters are repeatedly described as noble, fascinating creatures, while the humans are either gallant and bland—particularly Reese and Elizabeth, whose conversations and even thoughts revolve primarily around wolves—or monstrously cartoonish men who “thrived on the defenseless, fattening on the flesh of the helpless.” The book also displays an uncomfortably patronizing attitude toward Native Americans with the character of Jacy Cayuse, a 16-year-old Nez Perce boy who borders on being a cultural caricature: “[Reese] knew what every Native American would feel if he could behold what Jacy was seeing. The wolf and the Indian shared similar fates in their histories, Reese thought—both shamefully held in low esteem.” Devout naturalists with a passion for wolves may embrace the book’s larger message, but many readers might find the heavy-handed tone and static characters tedious.
An overly didactic tone and patronizing passages hinder this humans-vs.-nature story.