CBR BINGO: Landscape
Years ago a friend recommended I read Barbara Kingsolver’s novel, Prodigal Summer, about a wildlife biologist studying coyotes. It wasn’t something I thought would be in my wheelhouse, but I loved it and have been on the lookout for books of the the same ilk ever since. Give me books about folks obsessed with nature and wildlife written with obvious respect and awe. Paint those landscapes with words and give voice to the wild.
I struggle with finding a name for this genre. The closest coined phrase for it that I have come across is “eco-fiction.” Basically, when nature is as much a character as the people in a book, I’m all for it.
I saw this novel getting rave review everywhere, but it was the subject matter that I was drawn to. It reminded me of Sarah Hall’s Wolf Border which is a great book about the same topic: reintroducing wolves back to the forests of Scotland.
Inti Flynn is an Australian in charge of an international team of biologists attempting to introduce several packs of wolves to the Scottish Highlands where they were wiped out hundreds of years ago. Their goal of re-foresting the Highlands by depopulating the high number of grazing deer, is met with pushback from local farmers in the small rural town who fear the apex predators will feed on their livestock and impact their livelihood.
Already busy navigating the locals’ disdain while keeping a keen eye on the wolves assimilation, Inti is also caring for her traumatized twin sister, Aggie. Housebound, Aggie never leaves their small cabin in the woods. Communicating only through American Sign Language and a sign language they created as children, Aggie drifts in and out of engagement with Inti and world.
When a local man suddenly goes missing, the town rallies around one culprit: the wolves. Strapped with a condition that makes her feel everything she sees, Inti struggles with her own desires, her sister’s pain and the real possibility that a fiercely independent rogue wolf may have murdered someone.
This is one of those books that I devoured. It was breathtakingly atmospheric. Everything having to do with nature, the landscape and the wolves was borderline poetic. Many of the humans in the story, however, were a little one dimensional. The main characters, all of whom suffered from some kind of trauma, were more fleshed out, but even they tended to bang the same drum repeatedly. Mired in their history. It may be that the animals and the natural landscape were rendered so vividly and so nuanced that, by comparison, the people were sometimes one note.
I also had some issues with the ending. An extreme act of violence felt too easily dismissed or excused. It didn’t sit particularly well with me. Or, at least, it wasn’t dealt with in a believable way.
Most of these observations didn’t really hit me until I finished reading the book. I think this review reads as negative but I truly could not put this book down. Highly recommend it but couldn’t really review it without mentioning where it fell short.