Monday, 26 October 2015

Review: 'Sister Wolf' by Ann Arensberg

Sister Wolf: A NovelEvery once in a while you have to beat yourself up over not starting a book sooner. That time has come for me because I managed to not read Sister Wolf  for a whole year.For some reason or another it constantly slipped through the net, escaping my attention, much like a wolf itself. But I captured it and now I'm slightly fascinated by it.

Pub. Date: 18/02/2014
Publisher: Open Road Integrated Media
Winner of the National Book Award for Best First Novel: Ann Arensberg’s celebrated work tells a hallucinatory tale of sexual desire, jealousy, and savage love
On a June night in the Berkshire Hills of Massachusetts, Marit Deym prowls her land, anxiously awaiting the arrival of the van from the Dangerfield Zoo. When it finally comes—hours late—five wolves leap out onto the sprawling wildlife refuge Marit has created. And then one night, the wolves bring a stranger to her door.
A poetry instructor at a school for the blind, Gabriel Frankman lives in self-imposed exile after the death of the girl he loved. He visits her grave every weekend. He carries sunflower seeds in his backpack and his friends are the birds. Meeting the girl who keeps wolves will transform Gabriel’s life in ways he could never imagine.
Haunting and lyrical, shot through with grace notes of passion and sorrow, Sister Wolf is about the power of human beings—like that of their animal brethren—to survive and endure.
Sister Wolf takes you on a fascinating journey into that part of humanity which is a bit savage and which we keep so very tightly reined in most of the time nowadays. Society and civility have made great actors out of all of us, even though we often don't even realize we're actually performing. In Sister Wolf Arensberg dollows Marit Deym as she works on protecting the wolves and other animals in her wildlife refugee. Marit herself feels tightly reigned in, on the brink of revealing herself to be less civil and upstanding than the townfolk seem to assume. The metaphor of the wolf is a great one and has often been used, not always to such great effect as in Sister Wolf. The dual nature of the creature, both predator and victim to humanity, reflects the way we cage ourselves in quite well. It also allows for some beautiful descriptions which Arensberg seems to revel in.

Arensberg switches between different narrators, focusing mainly on Marit but also giving you an insight into the minds of some of the other characters. Gabriel Frankman is fascinating, his mind constantly torn between expressing himself and restraining himself. The back and forth in his own mind, his susceptibility to self-blame and the redemption he finds in that are interesting and strangely recognizable. Arensberg truly gets into her characters' minds and, as a consequence, into ours as well. Another character we get to see a lot of is Lola, a friend of Marit's, who seems so free and yet has imposed strict rules upon herself in order to live her life the way she wants. You walk away from Sister Wolf thinking of how you may be keeping yourself contained as well and that doesn't necessarily make it a comfortable read.

Sister Wolf is an e-book re-release by Open Road Integrated Media, the original novel having been published in 1981. It's always a pleasant surprise to me when I see a book that translates so well from one decade to another, even across centuries in this case. It's hard to date this book or its characters, which might be a flaw to some but, in my mind, actually allows it to remain relevant no matter when you read it. Some parts of the novel can be quite difficult to deal with, especially since Arensberg herself doesn't seem to judge her characters. She leaves it all up to the reader.

I give this novel...

4 Universes!

Sister Wolf is a great book, enjoyable and captivating at the same time. It's not an easy read but it's a worthwhile one, digging into the animalism of humans. This novel has stunning descriptions and even one or two twists, which are great. I'd recommend this to fans of suspense and thriller reads.


  1. so the wolves picked up a guy for her as a thank you? How cool is that? Maybe I should keep wolves too

  2. This is the first I've heard of this book! I'm honestly still a little confused about what it's about... Maybe I should just pick it up for myself to find out?! I'm glad you really enjoyed it :D

    Tracy @ Cornerfolds