Monday, September 10, 2007

The Tenderness of Wolves

Winner of the U.K. Costa Award (formerly the Whitbread Award), The Tenderness of Wolves is a finely wrought tale of complex human beings as they react to a violent murder in 1867 in Dove River in Canada’s Northern Territory. Mrs. Ross, a resident of the settlement, discovers the murder and reports it. The murder casts its shadow on two people, one of whom is Mrs. Ross’s adopted son, who is missing and William Parker, a half-breed Native American trapper, who is found in the murdered trapper’s cabin some time after. Several outsiders are drawn to the community because of the murder: Thomas Sturrock, a man whose inquiry into two children’s disappearance years ago ties him to Dove Rover, seeks something the murdered man owned; Mackinley and Moody, the Hudson Bay Company representatives, are here to find an answer. Mrs. Ross’s son, Francis, is the object of a cross-country trip, fraught with its own dangers: bitter cold, wolves, madmen and dangerous people. Moody sets out to bring back Francis, convinced of his guilt. Mrs. Ross’s devotion to her son (and belief that evidence suggests his innocence) makes her seek out Parker to guide her into the wilderness, frightened as she is of it. Parker has his own reasons for the trip.
Penney writes with fluidly and with wonderful detail – both of personalities and setting. The book is not only suspenseful, but revelatory of human actions, desires and feelings.
This is a true winner!