The old ‘uns called that day the Fall or the Reformation. Nana said some down in the far south called it Rapture. Nana was a babe when it happened, said her momma called it the Big Damn Stupid. Set everything back to zero.

Raised by a man she called Trapper, Elka grew up in the forests of BeeCee, learning how to trap and live off the land. He never says I love you, but he is the closest thing she has to a father. Kreagar Hallet is a wanted man and Magistrate Lyon will stop at nothing to bring him to justice. When Elka begins to suspect she’s been lied to, she runs, heading North where she believes she’ll find her real parents.

The Wolf Road is a powerful debut, beautifully describing the wilderness and the simplicity and hardships of living in it. Even in the good times, there is a constant edge to Elka’s existence, that one step behind her may be her death; be it from nature or the man she used to call daddy.

The narrative is written with an accent, something that’s hard to do successfully. I never found Elka’s manner of speaking difficult to follow and was soon sucked into her world.

The world didn’t change. There is still murder, still rape and fighting. We had this chance, this clean slate, and we just carried on the same as we always have.

There’s enough hints to get that this is set in a future Canada, for as much as it feels that it is in the past. Disaster reverts civilisation, even humanity. Elka doesn’t really know much about the Damn Stupid, but its impact is seen in the landscape. Pieces suggest there was another world war, that nukes were detonated, maybe it was the Russians, maybe not.

One thing that is clear, is this new world is a dangerous one. As Elka travels north, she stays away from the roads, keeping to the trees. She prefers to risk it with the animals who will only attack for a reason than the humans who are unpredictable. When her travels must intersect with human life, her fears are usually vindicated, yet she does make one unlikely friend. Or maybe two.

Everything looked like death to me, a bush was a hunched-over grizzly, a skinny tree stump was a wolf staring right at me.

I do have one little niggle about this book, and it’s something that is revealed at the end so I don’t want to go into too much detail. I really loved everything else about this book, so the fact that one thing didn’t fit isn’t going to put me off. Instead I’m convincing myself it comes down to the infallibility of memory. There’s plenty that Elka misremembered, so maybe her memories can’t be trusted at all.

The Wolf Road is published by The Borough Press, an imprint of HarperCollins, and is available now in hardback and ebook editions. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.

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Also reviewed @ For Winter Nights

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement. My reviews are my honest opinion and are not biased for the purpose of personal gain.