Who’s right? Lone Wolf, by Jodi Picoult

Ok, I’ll admit, Lone Wolf is my first Jodi Picoult read.

I’ve a copy of Perfect Match on my bookshelf, but I’ve not read it. I’ve of course heard a lot about My Sister’s Keeper, but have never been brave enough to put myself through it. I’ve been told that Nineteen Minutes is quite a bit like Shriver’s We Need to Talk About Kevin, which I enjoyed.

In short, it was high time that I had a look at Picoult and her skilful storytelling.

Lone Wolf is a fascinating story, an examination of family, loyalty and instinct:

“Edward Warren, twenty-four, has been living in Thailand for five years, a prodigal son who left his family after an irreparable fight with his father, Luke. But he gets a frantic phone call:  his dad lies comatose, gravely injured in the same accident that has also injured his younger sister Cara.

With her father’s chances for recovery dwindling, Cara wants to wait for a miracle. But Edward wants to terminate life support and donate his father’s organs. Is he motivated by altruism, or revenge? And to what
lengths will his sister to go to stop him from making an irrevocable decision?”

It’s a tale of conundrums and contradictions, of challenges facing a family group, all of whom, despite their differences are very likeable. I felt sympathy for all of them, Luke, Georgie, Cara, Edward and Joe, as they struggled to come to terms with the horrific situation facing them:

“There are stages of shock. The first one comes when you walk into the hospital room and you see your father, still as a corpse, hooked up to a bunch of machines and monitors. There’s the total disconnect when you try and reconcile that picture with the one in your head: the same man playing tag with a bunch of wolf pups; the same man who stood eye to eye with you and dared you to challenge him.”

Of course, they not only have the present to struggle with, but also the past. Secrets, guilt, conflicts and unresolvable differences have long come between this family, all of which now would do well to be exposed and dealt with – it’s clear that only then will Cara and Edward be able to heal, both physically and emotionally.

The novel itself is presented from the perspectives of all the main characters, moving from chapter to chapter it reveals the internal workings of each family member. Chapters are headed as Cara, Edward, Luke, Georgie and Joe. I was a little unsure about this device when I first flicked through the book, this kind of structure can be a little convenient. Not so in this case though, as the structure is both effective and appropriate – so much of this novel is about how people feel, about their internal dialogue, and also about how misunderstandings in feeling and thought can lead to very dire outcomes. Being privy to the situation and its emotions from the perspective of all players was not only interesting but also important. Further, it made the resolution to this story far more satisficatory.

Interestingly, Luke’s voice is also included in Lone Wolf, challenging given his vegetative state. In my opinion though, it is clear why he is given a voice – his reminiscing about his time in the wild with his wolf family is quite vital to the complexities of this family situation. While his children ponder on the state of their human family, both past and present, Luke, in what might be his final days, focuses entirely on his wolf pack:

“Later that day I was sitting with my knees drawn up when the beta loped closer and suddenly lunged, grabbing my throat on the underside. I could feel his teeth sinking into my skin, and instinctively I rolled to my back, a position of utter subordination. He wanted to make sure I’d learned what he’d been trying to teach me… The highest-ranking wolf in the pack isn’t the one that uses brute force. It’s the one who can, and chooses not to.”

Initially, it’s hard to understand Luke’s obsession and subsequent neglect of his family, but as the novel goes on, it becomes clearer and more tolerable – and this is part of the journey that his family are also required to make.

Lone Wolf is a really interesting novel and very readable. It’s not overly harrowing, although it will tug at the heart strings to the right degree, and take you on an emotional, intellectual and moral journey.


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