By Zehra Cranmer
Jodi Picoult, a prolific writer in her own right, brings her readers’ attention to a number of vital and difficult questions in her latest novel Lone Wolf in which we are forced to question our morals. A father’s life falls into the hands of his two children as he lays in a coma; his daughter Cara believes defiantly in the fighting spirit, the spirit of the wolf. His estranged son, Edward who has difficulty accepting his father’s choice of living and running with wolves over his family, decides he should be allowed to die and have his organs donated. We are forced to ask these questions; who has the right to die? And can that decision be made for another person?
Luke Baxter’s fascination with wolves stem from the myth that surrounds them and misrepresentations about them, his sense of ‘not belonging’ forces him to make a choice between these beautiful creatures and his family, he chooses the prior. In the wild, he sheds his human skin with abandon and joins his wolf family, and in doing so, he attempts to leave behind all that makes him human, yet it is one particular human emotion that forces him to realise he must return home, and to the shock of the reader, it is not his need to be with his own family. When he returns to his family, and life amongst the human variety, it is undoubtedly clear that something has been left behind and the Luke Baxter before us is a mere shadow, but can a person’s shadow exist if there was never really a person there before you?
There is a strong Barbara Kingsolver essence to this novel, it’s particularly akin to Kingsolver’s Prodigal Summer, just like Kingsolver, Picoult approaches her novel in a very deliberate manner, it begins with a question and moral dilemma which must be resolved, however, Picoult doesn’t do this until she’s run you through the ringer or made you hop, skip and jump on hot coals. One becomes mind tremblingly engrossed as words on the page seem to lift off and morph into something animalistic, something almost shamanistic as we become one with the wolf. We become members of the pack and by the end of the novel we are able to distinguish one wolf call from another, and discover that a human's cry is not so dissimilar to that of a wolf's. At each and every turn, dizzying parallels are drawn up between man and wolf. The wolf is portrayed as a mesmerising creature; there is the pack, or the family which relies heavily upon each member, every single one has a designated role, especially when it comes to sharing a meal. Being told that family meals are of great importance takes on a whole new meaning.
This is in no doubt a most absorbing read, not only does it function in a way that the reader becomes a participant, it is also a conscientiously educational one. Be prepared to part with this book at supper, social occasions and wash time, unless you become and utter hermit and read this in one fell swoop.
Lone Woolf by Jodi Picoult published by Hodder & Houghton