There have been so many brilliant books so far this year and today I have added Beth Lewis’ debut novel – The Wolf Road – to that list. I was really intrigued by the premise and as it was selected as June’s Goldsboro ‘Book of the Month’ I had high hopes, and I wasn’t disappointed.
“I been worried something rotten for you, Elka. This world ain’t no place for a kid like you on your own. There are worse things than wolves in the dark. Worse things than me.”
From the very first page I was gripped by this story and found it hard to put it down. Its protagonist, a teenage girl named Elka, has such a distinctive voice that I couldn’t help but listen. The novel is set in the aftermath of an event referred to as ‘the Damn Stupid’ an event which has destroyed civilization making the world a more dangerous, inhospitable place. Here we see Elka’s journey, how she survives out in the wilderness as she develops the skills she needs to hunt and fend for herself in this bleak new world. The man responsible for developing her skills is a man she refers to as Trapper, a man who took her in, becoming something of a father figure to the lonely Elka. However, it transpires that he is not the man she thought he was. The Wanted posters littered about town suggest there is more to him than meets the eye, as he is connected with a shocking crime…
‘Them doors would open one day and everything come at me, like a thunderhead rolling over the mountains. Soon it would hit and nothing would be the same.’
Elka’s discovery of this dark side to the man she saw as her family is only the start of her remarkable journey. She is forced to battle against the elements in her fight for survival, and is fighting battles with her own demons as she tries to process the events of the past 10 years, the time she had spent with Trapper. Elka is a fantastic character and is incredibly resourceful with events causing her to live a solitary existence where she has no choice but to hunt and find shelter, to keep her sanity in a world that has become insane. But whilst she has a strong, assured voice she also shows a vulnerable side. Her story is a difficult one, and in the absence of her family she longs for a little normality, to love and be loved. This is explored throughout the novel with the people she meets and the relationships she builds. And the circumstances for these meetings were shocking, and it is clear that the wolves in the woods are the least of Elka’s problems. I was captivated by this story from the very first page, gripped by the story of a girl who is so young yet has faced so much.
‘…down in the dark heart a’ me. The place a’ locked rooms and lost keys. But all them doors was flying open now.’
I loved reading The Wolf Road and was sad to leave Elka behind. Beth Lewis has written an impressive, brilliant debut that had me enthralled throughout. It is a fascinating story of survival – a story of one girl’s incredible journey, her survival against the elements, the wilderness and the life she left behind.