ELKA BARELY REMEMBERS a time before she knew Trapper. She was just seven years old, wandering lost and hungry in the wilderness, when the solitary hunter took her in. In the years since then, he’s taught her how to survive in this desolate land where civilization has been destroyed and men are at the mercy of the elements and each other.
But the man Elka thought she knew has been harboring a terrible secret. He’s a killer. A monster. And now that Elka knows the truth, she may be his next victim.
Armed with nothing but her knife and the hard lessons Trapper’s drilled into her, Elka flees into the frozen north in search of her real parents. But judging by the trail of blood dogging her footsteps, she hasn’t left Trapper behind—and he won’t be letting his little girl go without a fight. If she’s going to survive, Elka will have to turn and confront not just him, but the truth about the dark road she’s been set on.
The Wolf Road is an intimate cat-and-mouse tale of revenge and redemption, played out against a vast, unforgiving landscape—told by an indomitable young heroine fighting to escape her past and rejoin humanity.
The Wolf Road by Beth Lewis
A serial killer raising a young orphan girl in a post apocalyptic landscape? You’ve already got me sucked in! The Wolf Road by Beth Lewis was one of the books I have been most excited about reading this year and it certainly lived up to the hype! This book was absolutely, devastatingly amazing. Cruel, yet oddly uplifting.
The book gives you a glimpse at the end, then turns back to show you how everything unraveled to that point. Elka, who never really remembers her name, is a young adult/late teenager but still seems young in mind. Her arrested development likely comes from the fact that she was raised by Trapper, a serial killer with a reason behind his killings. What’s that reason? I think most can guess what it is pretty early on, but I won’t spoil it here.
Elka narrates the book and we see early on just how unreliable she can be as a narrator. She can’t even remember her birth name. She says she never knew that Trapper was a murderer, yet she believed it once she was told and knows she went on a hunt once with him, to catch a deer. The fact that everyone but Elka realizes certain things, such as “why” (or as close to why as we can get) Trapper kills, and why Trapper decides to keep Elka alive and raise her, when she can’t is so tragically sad. We see her mind slowly unravel as the psychogenic amnesia begins to wear off the farther away she gets from Trapper, or better said, the closer he gets to her. Once she breaks down all of the mental barriers she has set up, the end result is heartbreaking and cruel to where the reader only wants to do what Penelope does, hug her, hold her, and tell her it’s okay. YOU’RE OKAY.
Beth Lewis does an amazing job of explaining the story and what happened to this fractured world Elka is a part of while still remaining true to Elka’s voice. The Damn Stupid. Sudden “thunderheads” that are like tornadoes picking apart everything in its path and throwing it like a toddler does his toys. A cold war gone nuclear and survivors living in the aftermath as best they can. Lewis creates this broken world that feels so real, you can almost hear the crunch of the snow as people trudge through it and see the fog of breath escape. It’s such a vivid landscape, yet as I said earlier, it all remains true to Elka’s voice. None of it sounds like the author interposing herself suddenly in the story, unless it’s via other characters, such as Penelope.
The Wolf Road by Beth Lewis is an absolutely tremendous post-apocalyptic novel. If you’ve read The Road, by Cormac McCarthy, the feeling you get reading The Wolf Road seems almost opposite. In McCarthy’s work, you feel that somehow things will be okay and it isn’t maybe as dark until you get further in, whereas The Wolf Road, you immediately have a sense of dread, knowing what will happen to the protagonist/antihero and sincerely cannot imagine it ending well at all.
Quotes & Excerpts
I don’t much like roads. Roads is some other man’s path that people follow no question. All my life I lived by rules of the forest and rules of myself. One a’them rules is don’t go trusting another man’s path. No matter if that’s a real one trodden into dirt or all them twists and turns his life has taken. People do it, they do what their mommies and daddies did, they make them same mistakes, they have them same joys and hurts, they just repeating. Trees don’t grow exactly where their momma is; aint no room, ain’t enough light and water so they end up wilting and dying off. It’s the same with us humans, though you wouldn’t know it to look at them most a’the time.
– Boats Are for Spittin’ At
This wasn’t the thunderhead, no sir, this was the calm. This was the easing you in and it set ice right in my heart. That storm was talking to me, a warning like that wolf howl when I was in the crate. The wild was helping me survive in the world a’ men and, curse me, I should a’ listened closer. Maybe all them other pieces a’ darkness kept the truth out a’ me. The storm was telling me what was waiting on the other side of this lake but my demons plugged my ears. Colby’s words a’ beauty. Hog man’s ragged breathing. Kreagar’s black lies. I was deaf to it all.
“All people are good till they ain’t no more”
– That Thompson Boy
I was miserable and rightly so. It was lonely and cold and I craved company worse’n I ever craved food or water. Never thought I’d say that in truth. Always thought I wanted the lonesome life. People is trouble. Folk have darkness in the them what the wild don’t, and that scared me silly. Kreagar had that dark, so did Penelope for what she did to Bilker and her daddy, what meant I did too. It weren’t a dark that the light could disappear and it took me all them winter months to figure that.
– The Longest Winter
About the Author
I live in a too-small flat in London and regularly battle mice, cold, and irritating neighbours. In my spare time, what little of it I have, I watch too much TV. In my not-so-spare time, I write. Professionally, I’m the Managing Editor of the Illustrated Books division of Titan Books.
My debut novel, THE WOLF ROAD, will be published by Borough Press (HarperCollins) in the UK and Crown (Random House) in the US, in June 2016. It’s a literary thriller set in the remote wilderness of the Pacific Northwest.
Twitter: @bethklewis. Represented by Euan Thorneycroft at AM Heath.
That, I suppose, is the official stuff. The gumph and facts that everyone needs. When people ask me, ‘tell me a little about yourself’ I draw a blank. Do I run through my CV and tell you all about those waitressing jobs I had at 14 or creating a magazine or fire performing at fesitvals? Do I talk about the ten cats I had growing up? Or my travels across Canada? Or my close encounters with Great White Sharks?
The most ‘about me’ you need to know is that I love books. Love ’em. All shapes and sizes. I make non-fiction books professionally. I license movies, games, and TV shows and draw out the tid bits and gorgeous behind-the-scenes imagery and I slap it between covers. I love it and I always know spoilers so beware.
Also I love writing. The Wolf Road is my debut and I’m stunned it’s happening. It’s about a girl who finds out her adopted father is a murderin’ son-bitch. It’s dark. Like, lost-in-the-woods-at-midnight dark. The new book I’m working on will be, I hope, even darker.