Strengths: Picoult takes a topical situation and explores the potential options.
Weaknesses: Characters can be a little wooden at times.
Why I read it: ARC kindly sent by Allen and Unwin – thank you!
Pages: 421 (ARC)
Publisher: Allen and Unwin
Setting: New Hampshire, USA
Rating: 8.5 out of 10
If you liked this, try: My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult
I would say that I’ve read most of Jodi Picoult’s books (like many, I started with the incredibly moving My Sister’s Keeper). If you’re not aware of her books, she generally takes a hot topic (organ donation from a prisoner, school shootings, teen suicide) and makes a novel exploring all the options. If you’ve ever flicked through one of her books, all the different fonts are not a mistake. Her books are written in the first person of several of the main characters, so you get an idea of each character’s feelings, emotions and thoughts. It’s certainly a great way to look at a topical issue.
Her latest book, Lone Wolf, doesn’t disappoint. The issue is between two estranged siblings, Cara and Edward, fighting after an accident that has left their father, Luke, brain dead. Cara, who has been living with her father for years, wants to give her father every opportunity to make it through. She’s been Googling people who were declared brain dead and then spontaneously recovering. Edward, who left for Thailand six years ago after an argument with his dad, wants to turn off Luke’s life support. Who is right? Who has the power to make these decisions?
The course of the decision making doesn’t run smooth. Cara ‘dobs in’ Edward for unplugging Luke’s ventilator and the whole thing goes to court. Add in their mother’s new husband, representing Edward versus Cara (is this ethical?) and there’s plenty of opportunity for conflict.
You might have noticed that I haven’t yet mentioned wolves. Luke, before his accident, was something of a wolf Steve Irwin. He left his family to spend nearly two years immersed in a wolf pack in Canada and now runs a park with wolves (and mechanical dinosaurs). Was he a good father, leaving his family, or did his time away give him greater appreciation for the importance of family?
This novel has multiple levels of conflict – from simple brother and sister arguments to court room drama; Picoult handles it all with a caring touch and balances the views of the characters nicely. There is also quite a bit of information on the behaviour of wolves – some might find it interesting, others not so. However, it is the comparison between the wolf pack and the human family that gives a human side to Luke and makes the reader care all the more about what happens.
My only critique would be that the secret that Cara is hiding throughout the novel isn’t that big a deal. It didn’t seem to cause her much anguish, despite what she claims is severe guilt later on. Is it a reflection on the teenage psyche (out of sight, out of mind) or just something added in for extra drama? In comparison, I loved the character of Joe Ng and would love to try some of his Sunday morning Cambodian recipes!
A fast read, best read in greedy chunks. An enjoyable read.
(Kudos must also go to Allen & Unwin for the publicity for this book – love seeing books promoted so well! Have seen ads for this book everywhere – buses, train stations, displays instore. A great encouragement to read!)