Releases July 5, 2016
My rating: 5 out of 5
Image from Goodreads
Thank you to NetGalley and Crown Publishing for a free advance copy in exchange for an honest review!
The Short Of It:
This was a unique book with a gripping plot and a dynamic main character, and I could not put it down!
The Long Of It:
"The Wolf Road" is a post-apocalyptic tale, an adventure story, a horrifying thriller and, above all, a fascinating character study of 17-year-old Elka, who just found out the man who raised her may very well be a serial killer.
Upon learning this news, Elka flees the hut in the woods that's been the only home she's known for the past decade, as well as the man she calls Trapper and thinks of as Daddy. Raised in the forest with little human contact besides Trapper, Elka is almost feral. She has wild heart with nature in her veins. She's ridiculously adept at making fire, catching dinner and defending herself with her knife, but she has zero book-smarts and knows absolutely nothing about human nature -- and the fact that humans are all too often despicable. Elka sets off on a journey north in search of her long-lost parents, who headed there hunting gold 15 years ago, and the adventures she has are by turns horrifying, humorous and, if not uplifting, then at least assurance that not everyone is a disgusting pig in this world.
Elka is as strong as she is pitiful. She's gutsy, brave, no-nonsense, utterly straightforward and full of tenacity. She has a remarkable ability to live in the present (the here-now) and put the past (the back-then) behind her, which is a good thing considering all the horrible things Elka lives through. At times, Elka isn't all that likable -- she can be brash and abrupt and rude and glaringly naive -- but the reader just cannot help but love her. And that's Elka's secret, tucked-away desire: simply to be loved.
All this is set against the backdrop of "The Fall" (a.k.a. "The Damn Stupid"). Lewis doesn't go into explicit details, but it's presumed that a cold war escalated into nuclear war and devastated a good chunk of North America, reverting many areas back to a Wild West-style atmosphere.
Lewis's writing was amazing. The story is told through Elka's voice (in her unrefined English and with pure honesty) and that's what really took the book to the next level. Seeing the world so clearly through Elka's eyes gives readers an entirely different perspective. It also causes the reader to reflect on the human condition, which Elka is really just seeing for the first time. And Lewis has a bit of a depressing point to make: so many humans consistently choose power, greed and hate over love, kindness and equality.
I loved "The Wolf Road." It's an intense page-turner that totally sucked me in, but it's got a bit of levity and some lighter-hearted moments too. I definitely recommend adding this enthralling tale to your summer reading list!