Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Tenderness of Wolves Book Review

The Tenderness of Wolves: A Novel The Tenderness of Wolves: A Novel by Stef Penney

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Considering how much I love books, it's odd that I never joined a book club--until last month. Perhaps Chewing a Leaf attracted me because of the feminine themes, but it may just be the awesome community of women that are part of it. I can't wait to talk with them about it! Our first book was The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney.

The first chapter didn’t grab me. The sentences and thoughts seemed stilted. I didn’t feel the rhythm or lyricism of the style. I didn’t know much of anything about the character (his? her?) perspective.

As I continued, I realized that the stiltedness, commas littered like boulders, reflect the way that many of us think—the way the main character was thinking—the way a story is revealed…. The commas were not boulders but lightning flashes in the night.

The story revealed is of Mrs. Ross, an immigrant to Canada in the mid-1800s. She and her husband live in a colony that backs up to dense forests, and she finds herself afraid of those wilds. Although Mrs. Ross seems strong of spirit, we find that she takes some sort of sedative to calm her inner wilds. And, when a murder occurs in her community, we find that the line between savagery and civility becomes blurred.

What I initially thought was a lack of rhythm or lyricism, was what made the story interesting. This is not a fast-moving book, but the pace is justified so as to illuminate the complex plot. Stef Penney has a poetic style, creating well-developed characters who harbor enough secrets and veiled longings to keep you unsure and interested in the resolution. All came together in the end, leaving you with just enough answers to be satisfied…and just enough unresolved longing to feel the humanity of it all.

I had a Saturday to devote to this book and thoroughly enjoyed it.

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