Once There Were Wolves by Charlotte McConaghy
Published by Flatiron Books
Publication date: August 3, 2021
Genres: Book Clubs, Fiction, Literary, Mystery
Fourteen wolves are being released into four different sections of the Scottish Highlands in an effort to balance an environment that is dying. For Inti Flynn it’s the project of her life. She’s a wolf biologist and knows these animals intimately. She also knows that they will not be welcomed by the area sheep farmers who see them as a threat. This despite the fact that the local deer population no longer observes normal migration and is stripping the land of its natural growth. From this tense beginning Once There Were Wolves roams from Scotland to Australia, through Inti’s childhood and deep into the wild that is her love for her twin sister, Aggie.
Inti feels things more than others. Literally. She has a rare condition known as mirror touch synesthesia. Whether it’s human or animal, when they experience a touch sensation as she watches, she feels it. As an adult she’s learned to manage it, but for most of her life it was her sister Aggie protecting her from feelings she couldn’t handle. Only now Aggie lives with her in Scotland, seldom speaking and never leaving their cottage. Inti bears the guilt of her reduced sister by caring for her and by being the warrior for the wolves. She has no understanding of or patience for what she sees as their willful ignorance. When a farmer is found dead and the town looks for retribution she’s pushed to the edges of her resources. She doesn’t want to believe it, but knows she’ll have to intervene or the wolves will be randomly slaughtered.
Once There Were Wolves unfolds with a subtle symmetry. The lives of wolves played against Inti’s ability to feel others’ pain. The girls growing up living with a detective mother in Australia, but spending summers in the woods of British Columbia with an environmentalist father. The book of colours in nature he made them read. Her life with Aggie after college in Alaska. Climate change, twins, wolves, conservation, abuse, and passion all in 272 pages sounds like a recipe for disaster, but Charlotte McConaghy weaves Once There Were Wolves into a stirring, dramatic story of man, animal, and the unwelcome truth that the difference between the two is not as great as we’d like to think. And that it’s vital to protect one to save the other.
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*I received a free copy of this book from Flatiron Books in exchange for an honest review.*