“The Wolf Road” by Beth Lewis: A Book Review

Goldsboro Books, 23–25 Cecil St., London, WC2N 4E2, United Kingdom, S & N Limited Edition/and Crown Publishing Group, A Division of Penguin Random House

“Think on why I ain’t killing you.”—Kreagar

Elka doesn’t remember her parents. After a war that destroyed civilization, she lives in the wilderness with a man named Trapper. Trapper teaches her to survive in the wilds, but he hates the small towns around them; he has a terrible secret that he doesn’t want Elka to find out about.

For a brief time before living with Trapper, Elka lived with an old woman she called NaNa, but Elka was separated from her during a “thunderhead,” a giant storm that has occurred sporadically since the wars. The people refer the wars as “the Damn Stupid,” and it wrecked the infrastructure of civilization. Based on the description of the world, it sounds as if it was a nuclear war.

Elka was about seven years old and was wandering about in the woods when Trapper found her. He told her that he would take care of her until they found her NaNa. She was a little frightened of him because he had what looked like blue mud pictures on his face that didn’t come off.

One day, Trapper came back and told Elka that her NaNa had been crushed by a tree during the last “thunderhead,” but he said he would take care of her. Trapper taught Elka to hunt, build snares, skin rabbits, squirrels and deer and generally survive in the world.

Trapper was sometimes mean, and one time, Elka cut herself and spilled her blood over a snare. Trapper made her sleep outside by the snare for three days because no animal would come near a snare that smelled of human blood.

The description of Elka’s life with Trapper takes place in the first 50 pages. At the end of her apprenticeship, Elka is about 17 years old and a really strong woman. This is where the story really begins.

The Wolf RoadI haven’t told you a lot of the story, just some clues as to how the book begins. It’s really an exciting story in which the tension builds as Elka goes to town for the first time and sees a wanted poster with the picture of the man she lives with. Elka knows him as Trapper, but the wanted poster calls him Kreagar Hallet and says he’s wanted for murder.

Elka is approached by the sheriff of Dalston, the nearest small town to where she lives. The sheriff, Jennifer Lyon, claims that the man Elka knows as her father is the killer of eight women and one child.

Elka is dumbstruck by this information. At this point, she feels she needs to go off on her own and think things through, never realizing that the man she calls Trapper and thinks of as her daddy will track her, no matter where she travels.

The book is told in first-person narrative. At first, it takes a while to get used to Elka’s way of telling the story, but once I got used to her thought pattern, the book was difficult to put down. This is Beth Lewis’s first novel and it’s a wonderful beginning.

When a civilization breaks down, a feudal society fills the space. Women, on their own, need to know how to fend for themselves or men quickly take them into servitude. In today’s world, we call them pimps.

Elka meets friends along the road, and I use the term “friends” loosely. We can’t always trust someone we think of as a friend. Religion has its place in the world, and in a world where life is savage, so are so-called men of god. Blood is more than symbolic in one church that Elka stumbles into.

Luckily, Elka is quite strong and her naivety quickly dissipates, which makes it possible for her to survive. Elka is hunted by more people than her father, and her travels are full of interesting situations.

“The Wolf Road” gets its title from the nature of the path on which Elka finds herself. The world is strange, and at one point in the story, she camps at a lake that radiates warmth. She’s lucky to get away with her body intact.

One of Elka’s friends camps there with her father and their story doesn’t end happily. However, if that event didn’t take place, Elka would not have met Penelope, a woman of the same age as Elka who teaches her some useful things—yet, there’s something about her that makes Elka wonder if she can be trusted.

I purchased the book from Goldsboro Books, a specialty book-seller in Europe. It’s a signed and numbered edition for a fair price. There were only 750 copies printed. I highly recommend this bookseller, which can be found on the Internet. There were still some copies left the last time I checked.

Here in the United States, the book will be released on July 5, and by the time you read this, that date will have come and gone. I always recommend the Harvard Book Store, one of the few independent booksellers left. If they don’t have it in stock, they’ll be happy to order it for you.

“The Wolf Road” is a great summer read and I’m looking forward to Beth Lewis’s next book. It’s a great, if dark, adventure.

Marc D. Goldfinger is a member of the board of directors of the Homeless Empowerment Project, which publishes Spare Change news. Formerly homeless, he serves as the paper's poetry editor.

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