If written by a less astute writer, The Wolf Wants In – a story permeated by the opioid crisis and rise in crime in rural locations – would have been a depressing slough difficult to get through, but under Laura McHugh’s guiding pen, it becomes essential reading and a story that will never be forgotten.
Laura McHugh has the ability to make readers care about characters within moments of their appearance on the page. In The Wolf Wants In, both Sadie Keller and Henley Pettit are remarkable creations that live and breath beyond the pages of the novel. Even secondary characters are unique and memorable – for various different reasons. Characters like Charlie, Becca, Jason, Crystle, Hannah, and even an old dog name Gravy make an impression that lasts. All that said, it is probably Shane Keller, who will affect readers the most. He is a character who barely makes an appearance on the printed page, but his influence, memory, and spirit is felt deeply in every moment regardless of how minor or monumental.
Structurally, The Wolf Wants In does not break any new ground. Laura McHugh gives readers two point of view narrators in two different timelines – in this case, just a few months apart. These two storylines blend and converge in fascinating ways that bolsters the impact of even the smallest of reveals. Readers watch as Sadie tries to understand that tragedy that has befallen her brother – even when the signs continue to point to a truth she would be better off not knowing. Meanwhile, Henley longs to escape from a reality she never asked for – even when the glimmers of hope on the horizon prove to be mere mirages designed to tempt rather than tame. Here we have two independent women who refuse to accept the status quo. Eventually their paths will cross in an emotional vortex that will leave readers shaken to the core.
With her hypnotic descriptions and humane tone, Laura McHugh transports readers to Blackwater, Kansas. This location is at once both pinpoint specific and all-encompassingly universal. Every reader will know a town like this, or a neighborhood, or many even just a home. Whatever that reflection point, these people in crisis are our people. They are us. The clash of the haves, the have-nots, and the never-will-haves on the rustic battlefield of the Midwest feels like a modern day Western where every character is wearing shades of gray rather than the more easily identified black and white, where pills and needles replace pistols and rope, and where hope is the most precious – and rarest – commodity on the market.
The Wolf Wants In is a poignant portrait of small-town America in which Laura McHugh refuses to classify any character – regardless of how disenfranchised they may be – as anything less than a vital part of our human tapestry. This Edgar Award-worthy tale tells several very personal journeys in a way that will affect any reader who dares to crack the spine and follow the path this talented author has laid out.
Disclaimer: A print galley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the publisher. No review was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.