Summary and book reviews of Once There Were Wolves by Charlotte McConaghy

Once There Were Wolves

by Charlotte McConaghy

Once There Were Wolves by Charlotte McConaghy X
Once There Were Wolves by Charlotte McConaghy
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  • Published:
    Aug 2021, 272 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Callum McLaughlin
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About this Book

Book Summary

From the author of the beloved national bestseller Migrations, a pulse-pounding new novel set in the wild Scottish Highlands.

Inti Flynn arrives in Scotland with her twin sister, Aggie, to lead a team of biologists tasked with reintroducing fourteen gray wolves into the remote Highlands. She hopes to heal not only the dying landscape, but Aggie, too, unmade by the terrible secrets that drove the sisters out of Alaska.

Inti is not the woman she once was, either, changed by the harm she's witnessed―inflicted by humans on both the wild and each other. Yet as the wolves surprise everyone by thriving, Inti begins to let her guard down, even opening herself up to the possibility of love. But when a farmer is found dead, Inti knows where the town will lay blame. Unable to accept her wolves could be responsible, Inti makes a reckless decision to protect them. But if the wolves didn't make the kill, then who did? And what will Inti do when the man she is falling for seems to be the prime suspect?

Propulsive and spell-binding, Charlotte McConaghy's Once There Were Wolves is the unforgettable story of a woman desperate to save the creatures she loves―if she isn't consumed by a wild that was once her refuge.

1

When we were eight, Dad cut me open from throat to stomach.

In a forest in the wilds of British Columbia sat his workshop, dusty and reeking of blood. He had skins hanging to dry and they brushed our foreheads as we crept through them. I shivered, even then, while Aggie grinned devilishly ahead of me, bolder than me by far. After summers spent wishing to know what happened in this shed I was suddenly desperate to be gone from it.

He'd caught a rabbit and though he'd let us stalk the woods with him he'd never shown us the act of killing.

Aggie was eager, and in her haste she kicked a brine barrel, her foot making a deep echoing thud, one I felt on my foot, too. Dad looked up and sighed. "You really want to see?"

Aggie nodded.

"Are you prepared for it?"

Another nod.

I could see the furry rabbit and all the blades. It wasn't moving; dead already.

"Come on over then."

We went to either side of him, our noses peeking over his workbench. From here I could see all the fine colors of its pelt, ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

McConaghy's prose is gorgeous, without ever feeling overwrought. She paints vivid pictures of Scotland's rugged landscape, contrasting its beauty with the inherent dangers of living and working on such harsh terrain. The nuance of her writing is such that, though the novel is a gripping page-turner, it also delves deeply into the psyche of its characters, as more and more secrets bubble to the surface. She imparts the suggestion that we may yet be able to reclaim what has been lost — a world in which we are all kinder to the planet, ourselves, and each other...continued

Full Review Members Only (509 words).

(Reviewed by Callum McLaughlin).

Media Reviews

New York Times
[M]uch of the plot and characterization seems rushed and scrappy, a vehicle for environmental messaging...This is a heartfelt and earnest novel — in every chapter, there's evidence of a writer straining for the cathedral cadence, that elegiac note of aching significance — but sincerity doesn't guarantee a satisfying read.

Newsweek
This heart-pounding novel digs into the complex relationships between humans―and the creatures with which we share the natural world.

Thrillist
From the author of 2020's gorgeous Migrations comes a similarly earth-shattering tale of humanity's influence on the natural world.

Bookriot
Urges us to take a lesson from the wolves, and learn to lean on one another.

Popsugar
A lyrical novel with a wild heart.

Los Angeles Times
While McConaghy presents intelligent perspectives on the wisdom of rewilding, the book goes into deeper questions of epistemology. The understanding of how we know the things we know is under serious pressure in a world confronted by climate change and the need to adapt to the previously unthinkable...We are confronted by the limits of language every day. And as McConaghy shows in this stunning book, the limits of language lead us to the limits of empathy.

Booklist
McConaghy infuses Inti's adventures with ravishing descriptions of the landscape and the 'infinite mysteries of wolves'…McConaghy's richly plotted tale of suspense and psychological insight poses provocative questions about predators and humanity's impact on Earth.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
[T]here is no shortage of emotional and physical violence here, but the payoff is the glimpse of gentleness and humanity that we spot through Inti's and Aggie's eyes. A lovely, gripping tale about a world that could be our own.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Australian author McConaghy returns with a vividly realized story of trauma and the attempted 'rewilding' of the Scottish Highlands...The bleak landscape is gorgeously rendered and made tense by its human and animal inhabitants...Throughout, McConaghy avoids melodrama by maintaining a cool matter-of-factness. This is a stunner.

Library Journal (starred review)
Another win for McConaghy that weaves together various modes and creates something that will be immediately appealing to a diverse spate of readers.

Reader Reviews

Margot P

Rich tale of our basic humanity
Incredible story! The parallels between the wolves and humans in this short, lush novel set in the Scottish highlands are presented so poetically it almost takes your breath away. Our powers to love, hurt, destroy are laid out brilliantly through the...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Rewilding Scotland

WolfIn Charlotte McConaghy's novel, Once There Were Wolves, the heroine leads a project to reintroduce wolves to the Highlands, the mountainous region of northern Scotland. As they were hunted to extinction around the end of the 17th century, there is a very real debate surrounding the possibility of bringing wolves back to this area, and based on successful efforts already accomplished, some experts consider Scotland a potential model for rewilding campaigns across the globe.

What Is Rewilding?

The primary aim of rewilding is to conserve and restore natural environments. This facilitates the development of healthy, balanced ecosystems, which in turn supports species diversity and alleviates the impact of climate change. Ideally, rewilding ...

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