A tragic mystery blending sleuthing and spirituality
An exploration in grief, suicide, spiritualism, and Inuit culture, Winter of the Wolf follows Bean, an empathic and spiritually evolved fifteen-year-old, who is determined to unravel the mystery of her brother Sam’s death. Though all evidence points to a suicide, her heart and intuition compel her to dig deeper. With help from her friend Julie, they retrace Sam’s steps, delve into his Inuit beliefs, and reconnect with their spiritual beliefs to uncover clues beyond material understanding.
Both tragic and heartwarming, this twisting novel draws you into Bean’s world as she struggles with grief, navigates high school dramas, and learns to open her heart in order to see the true nature of the people around her. Winter of the Wolf is about seeking the truth—no matter how painful—in order to see the full picture.
In this novel, environmentalist and award-winning author, Martha Handler, brings together two important pieces of her life—the death of her best friend’s son and her work as president of the Wolf Conservation Center—to tell an empathetic and powerful story with undeniable messages.
Rating: 4/5 Stars
Winter of the Wolf follows Bean, a teenage girl struggling to come to terms with the death of Sam, her older brother and favorite person in the world. It’s heart-wrenching to experience Bean’s grief with her — it’s abundantly clear how close she was to her brother, and she not only has to deal with his loss, but also has the responsibly of having to deal with her parents. While her dad isn’t so bad, her mom has withdrawn inside herself since Sam’s death, and Bean is left to do all of the household chores while still caring for her mother. Ultimately, the story is about the bond of family.
The only real qualm I had was that at times, the characters didn’t quite sound like the age that they were. There’s a time hop towards the end, and at that point I think Bean’s language fits her age. I just thought that some of her language — such as how formalized she talked at times — wasn’t too accurate to how teenagers talk. At one point, Bean and her mom are having a very serious conversation, and it seemed kind of weird that they would go so long without speaking only to have a full-fledged, coherent conversation. Other than that, I think her relationships with her best friend, Julie, as well as Bean’s dad and two other older brothers.
Winter of the Wolf kept me guessing throughout, and really kept me involved with Bean’s feelings and her journey to figure out what happened to Sam. Handler does a great job with showing readers how much Bean loves Sam, both through memories/flashbacks and through how she talks about him. Even though you know it’s not possible, you can’t help hoping that there’s some sort of loophole where Sam would come back, in a physical form as himself, by the book’s end.
Overall, the book was a relatively fast read — I finished it within 24 hours, and it’s less than 300 pages. Navigating the Inuit culture referenced throughout the book took some getting used to, as did all of the spiritualism. That’s not something that I can remember encountering in previous books that I’ve read, or if I have, it wasn’t as prominent to the story and plot. I think this would be a good read for readers of young adult fiction who want to expand their horizons — or in my case, read YA fiction that’s not contemporary romance, dystopian, or sci-fi! (Not to mention, the cover is amazing!)
I’d like to thank FSB Associates for reaching out and providing me with the opportunity to read Handler’s debut!