From the start I have been a fan of Jodi Picoult's novels. She is one of the most intelligent writers creating novels today. Her plots are intriguing and thought provoking; her characters are flawed but admirable; her descriptions are purposeful and specific. Each new novel is generally a chance to enter a quixotic world where the weaker fight valiantly and sometimes win. For all these reasons it is with regret I admit I did not care for Picoult's new novel Lone Wolf.
Lone Wolf is the story of Luke Warren and his family. Warren is a man who is obsessed with the study of wolves. He likes their company, their way of life and their pack mentality. At one point in his life he spends two years in the wilderness with them even though this means leaving behind his wife, son and daughter.
Eventually his son leaves the family home and flees to Thailand where he can completely divest himself of his father's shadow. His wife also leaves him and finds new happiness with another husband and later two new children. Only his daughter Cara remains his willing acolyte. She goes with him on forays into the woods to view the wolves, and also works at the preserve where some wolves are kept.
One day Edward, the son, is summoned home by his mother Georgie. She tells him there has been an accident and that his father and sister are in the hospital. Edward immediately heads home and arrives to find his sister battered by the wreck, and his father in a coma like state.
After a few days it becomes obvious to the doctors that Luke will never reemerge into the world. He has some brain damage that will probably keep him asleep indefinitely. Plus he cannot breathe on his own and must be kept alive by machines. This leads to the question as to whether or not the family wants to "pull the plug" or maintain his current condition. Edward and Cara have different opinions as to what is the best plan of action.
The story is told in different chapters from the viewpoint of the main characters. Interspersed between each is a narrative tale by Luke about his life with the wolves. It is obvious these lessons about wolf life are supposed to mirror the problems and activities of his human family.
The problem with this book is we learn too much about the wolves and not enough about the humans. We are actually given more wolf lore than we can easily absorb. The study of the humans seems to be much more concise. Perhaps with a little more information the reader could understand why Luke is driven to do what he does. Understanding him is the key to accepting the story.
There is talent on display in the pages of this book to be sure. Picoult presents a well thought out plot that should entertain as well as pique the interest of the readers. Still those pesky wolves get in the way of the story. They should serve as a backdrop to a question of termination of life but instead they dominate the scope of the book.
Some may find this all fascinating and well worth their time and effort. For those, however, who want a basic plot filled with understandable characters this is not the story for you. Jodi Picoult is still a great writer. This is just not a great book.
Lone Wolf is published by Atria Books. It contains 421 pages and sells for $28.00.
Jackie K Cooper