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Ordinary Wolves

by Seth Kantner

Ordinary Wolves by Seth Kantner
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  • First Published:
    May 2004, 352 pages
    Paperback:
    Aug 2005, 344 pages

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John

Ordinary Wolves
I lived in Interior and Northern Alaska for 15 years - hitched up there in 1971 as a teenager. Lived in remote cabins, small towns and survived living in one Native village Went to the university in Fairbanks. I am absolutely amazed by this book. And the power of education! Few who grew up in that environment could describe it to an outsider, much less write about so well.

Folks this is the real thing, in incredible detail, from an incredible dude. Don't believe me? Fly out to a village of less than 200 in Northwest Alaska - no need to buy a return ticket, they will probably put you on a return plane within a day or two if you have no business there. Yes the prejudice is real. Or you could be killed (any number of ways) and there might be a discussion about whether the State Troopers should be called. You have to be very commited to "make it" as a newcomer out there. You would find it about as familiar as Katmandu. And the village is just the jumping off point for the bush - which the author learned about and described so well.

But what a life. Woven into this novel is a historical and cultural document of an American lifestyle that few are aware of.
Wayne

Remarkably accurate
I have never read anything which described bush living in the far north so accurately. I lived in Alaska for 5 years, on Baffin Island for 6, and in remote northern BC for 32, and I kept shaking my head in amazement at how perfectly Kantner evokes both bush and village life. The wildlife material is dead on too. This guy has lived it.

You might or might not like the story. It is pretty dark–perhaps excessively so at times– and occasionally you may lose the thread or stumble over Inupiat terms. You won't become a great fan of our attempts to "civilize" the north, nor of the benefits of snowmobiles and other technology to northern peoples. And if you have an idealistic picture of northerners, you won't like it much.

Kantner shows us the true face of the arctic wilderness, and I don't think many readers will rush to try bush life when they finish it.
Penny

Love prevails - a story
I can't get beyond this book. Everything I read, see or hear brings me back to the love and the horrors visualized in this book. The voices of the characters ring true. The abysmal cruelties to people and animals chill your soul - I laughed, I cried - for the people and the animals, especially the wolves. People are surprised I could read such a violent book - but I found the reprehensible behavior documented in this tale so true that I forced myself to read on. And in the end I felt that journey was worth the read. The book is filled with beautiful detail of some horrific incidences in the lives of families. Families who are doing the best they can with what they have and where they live and who they are. Yet over all a certain type of all encompassing love prevails. Seth Kanter tells a great story. I couldn't give this book any higher recommendation.
Jen

This was the best book I've read all year...The description of the frontier and its people were the highlight as the author is amazingly adept at creating the scene, of a place very foreign to most of us. I'm hoping for another novel from this author.
Mary

This book rang so true that it was hard to conceive that it was a work of fiction. The author painted a beautiful picture of the Alaskan countryside as well as giving emotional depth to his characters. I felt like I walked beside the main character, Cutuk, throughout the entire novel.
Santiago

Ordinary Wolves
All of the people in this book are slobs. Why is it necessary? From the bush to the villages to the city they are slobs. It seems to me novels can be written without portraying constant strife and humiliations and ugliness. I don't think Mr. Katner suffered this much--yes, it is autobiographical--so why not some lighter moments? And, where does he go from here? I'm not sure he has anything else left in him, though he is an excellent writer and speaks with authority of the Alaska wilderness and some of the attitudes within the Native community. I would hope for something better down the line, but am afraid this will be it--he's shot his wad.
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