Book 5 of my 2015 Reading Challenge
read from Jan. 19 - Jan. 20
Little Wolves by Thomas Maltman
Summary (via the book jacket)
Set on the Minnesota prairie in the late 1980s during a drought season that's pushing family farms to the brink, Little Wolves features the intertwining stories of a father searching for answers after his son commits a heinous murder, and a pastor's wife (and washed-out scholar of early Anglo-Saxon literature) who has returned to the town for mysterious reasons of her own. A penetrating look at small-town American from the award-winning author of The Night Birds, Little Wolves weaves together elements of folklore and Norse mythology while being driven by a powerful murder mystery.
Our book club read this because it was an All Iowa Reads selection.
Just as you can really like a person but not love everything that they say, I really liked this book even though I didn't love every paragraph.
On the plus side, it was intense and difficult to put down at times. The writing was so vivid I would look up and be surprised that I'm not sitting in a barn on a rainy night with the characters right in front of me. I nodded with familiarity at the descriptions of small town life such as "Know the price of beans or the weather forecast, and you might find your way into a conversation" and "people lived in this town for twenty-five years and were still counted as strangers".
On the minus side, it is difficult to recommend because there are many elements to it - religious but also a hint of supernatural - that keep it from falling into a simple "you like a particular genre (religion, mystery, supernatural, etc.)? try this book" category. Also, after toeing the line for most of the book, the ending was a letdown because it went too far into the spiritual side for my liking. I'm sure there are things that I missed (extra meaning in the chapter titles or significance in the multiple injuries that led to bleeding palms) because I tend not to focus on religious aspects or lessons.
I was not surprised to see in the author's note that he woke up one morning hearing a father's voice and needing to follow it led to the book because Grizz was the most vivid character to me.
A Few Quotes from the Book
"Clara Warren's hand shook as she marked the words on the page because she knew she was trapped inside one of her father's stories, and the only way out was to write it down. She wrote as if her life depended on it, and maybe it did."
"Few people know you as well as those who hate you."
"Sometimes Seth smiled his small secret smile because there was music inside him when he was alone in his thoughts. And Grizz had to turn away, the familiar expression reminding him too sharply of the boy's mother. Seth's hand for drawing, his fancy-flighting, his desperate capacity to love the wrong things: all this he inherited from her."
" "Rilke says that we live out our lives in the horizontal." He drew his hand slowly along the surface of the table, "but every now and then, even in an ordinary life, we touch the vertical." "