I started this book in a secluded cabin in the Missouri wilderness where the absence of light pollution at night allows one to see the band of the Milky Way. Like any book that opens with a hunting scene, I almost put this one down after the first pages. I read to escape the violence against animals too common in the world. But I felt a deeper message here, and being unplugged from media and away from the press of human civilization I felt prepared to take this on.
It’s rare to find a book that so closely validates my beliefs about nature, animals, and humanity’s troubling place in it all. I come away from the experience of this book feeling sad but moved, and pulled very far out of my comfort zone. I don’t believe the violence, especially at the climax, is justified, even in this fictional world–but I think that’s the point.
Oppression of women and animals and the connected violence go hand in hand here, as they often do in reality. Even though I really broke two rules of my reading for escapism here, the comparison was satisfying … even as it filled me with grief. I feel changed by this book, that someone here gets it, not just me. Maybe a lot of someones get it. And even as the story progressed into the awful things men do to women and animals, balanced on the other side was such a poignant expression of compassion for nature. It made me sad at the reality we’ve created, and hopeful that someday there might be enough people who follow this understanding to tip things for the good of all who share the earth.
ONCE THERE WERE WOLVES
by Charlotte McConaghy