The Tenderness of Wolves
By Stef Penney
Simon & Schuster Publishing
I like wolves. As far as animals go, they seem to be some of the more likeable creatures, in theory at least. Their packs are like families, all taking care of one another. They can be beautiful. And I read a book called Julie of the Wolves (by Jean Craighead George) when I was a child that lent them a romantic air, of sorts.
So when I saw the title of this book, The Tenderness of Wolves, I picked it up without even reading the summary.
The book starts out a little more gruesome than my usual fare, with a brutal murder in a small Canadian village. The neighbor who finds the body soon has more problems on her hands when she realizes her 17-year-old son has disappeared on the same day as the murder and is being considered a suspect. Mrs. Ross, who is in an unhappy marriage, believes in her son's innocence (although her husband doesn't seem to have any opinion at all). She knows she must find him, so she joins with another man, Mr. Parker, who had himself been considered a suspect in the crime. Together they head off tracking her son's trail to see what they can find.
The difficulties of their travels and the direness of their situation lends itself to the unthinkable happening as Mrs. Ross finds herself developing feelings for the wayward Mr. Parker. Throughout the book, Mrs. Ross recounts her past, the choices she's made, and the feelings she is experiencing now. She finally realizes that she is not the only one feeling the way she is feeling, although they never can say it out loud to each other.
Through finding her son, and another trail that may lead to the real murderer and clear her son's name, Mrs. Ross displays enormous amounts of bravery, a little stupidity, and a level of humanity that is hard to convey through words. The author does a great job of throwing in surprising twists and turns when you least expect it, leading the reader down one road and then another.
There is a moment in the final chapter of the book, entitled "The Sickness of Long Thinking", where Mrs. Ross realizes she must say goodbye to Mr. Parker and go back home to her husband, her son, her old life. She realizes that she will always thereafter live with The Sickness of Long Thinking, as she calls it; knowing she cannot be with the one who is her love, her lodestone, her true north. Instead, she forces herself to turn away.
I enjoyed the variety of characters, interesting storylines, backwoods adventures, and the sadness and joy related in this book. I didn't want to put it down. I would recommend this one.