Once There Were Wolves, a review by Amy

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Once There Were Wolves
Charlotte McConaghy
272 pages
Flatiron Books

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“But now, change is frightening to some, and when you open your heart to rewilding a landscape, you’re opening your heart to rewilding yourself.”

Beautifully told and profoundly poignant. This book made me feel deeply and gave me so much to ponder. I finished the book almost a week ago, and it still sits with me… the beauty of the scenes told in vivid detail and the ponderings of the messaging.

This is a book full of trauma and healing: both of the characters and the land. The Scottish Highlands no longer thrive as they once did. Neither do Inti and Aggie. The land was catapulted into change because of fear. Sisters wounded and stifled by the same. Which begs the question: can the land and the sisters heal and move forward?

McConaghy’s accomplishments in this novel are numerous. But the thing that stood out most was the atmosphere she created. Each scene was painted in cinematic detail. The descriptions of the land and forest, the wolves adjusting to this new environment, the feel of the Scottish community…they were vibrant and opulent.

The messaging of the book is more than noteworthy. It is worthy of distinction.
“Animals learn their lessons. They’re smarter than people that way.”

I loved the juxtaposition between the wolves and the humans as the storyline progressed. The wolves expertly learn to adapt in a foreign environment, while the humans become stilted by emotion, unable to progress and move forward. Whereas the wolves acted upon the evidence in their environment, the human characters perceived all evidence through the lens of emotion, often letting emotion override fact.

The characters are intricately woven as the story unfolds, revealing a depth and richness to each. McConaghy portrays the broad spectrum of trauma and healing through each, giving an authenticity to their experiences and progress.

This is one of the most adeptly symbolic books I’ve read in a while. Its reflective nature made it ideal to read with friends. Definitely consider reading this one in community.

This book was a BOTM pick for August. To get your first month for $5, use this link! BOTM

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