September 7, 2020
Winter of the Wolf Book Review
An exploration in grief, suicide, spiritualism, and Inuit culture, Winter of the Wolf follows Bean who is determined to unravel the mystery of her brother Sam’s death.
About Winter of the Wolf
An exploration in grief, suicide, spiritualism, and Inuit culture, Winter of the Wolf follows Bean, an empathic and spiritually evolved fifteen-year-old, who is determined to unravel the mystery of her brother Sam’s death. Though all evidence points to a suicide, her heart compels her to dig deeper. With help from her friend Julie, they retrace Sam’s steps, delve into his Inuit beliefs, and reconnect with their own spiritual beliefs to uncover clues.
Both tragic and heartwarming, this twisting novel draws you into Bean’s world as she struggles with grief, navigates high school dramas, and learns to open her heart in order to see the truth of the people around her. Winter of the Wolf is about seeking the truth, no matter how painful, in order to see the full picture.
In this novel, environmentalist and award-winning author, Martha Handler, brings together two important pieces of her life—the death of her best friend’s son and her work as president of the Wolf Conservation Center—to tell an empathetic and powerful story with undeniable messages.
In this story, we are introduced to your everyday family – four siblings, two loving parents, and a busy family life. Our main character, Bean, is an intelligent, compassionate and soulful young woman who shares a close relationship with her one brother, Sam. They have a beautiful relationship, one that I wish for my own children. Sam seems to be misunderstood by others – he has deep spiritual beliefs and feels connected with nature and animals. He fell in love with the Inuit way of life and from the glimpses we have of him – he incorporated this into many aspects of his life.
One moment, one decision changes this family forever. Sam dies in a traumatic manner for all involved – his Mom that finds him and his family that are left not knowing what they could have done or should have done to have helped him. Everyone believes that he took his own life and for the most part, everything seems to point to this. But in her heart, Bean knows this could not be true. Lost and feeling alone, Bean sets out to discover the truth. What she uncovers slowly and piece by piece, is forgiveness, understanding and an accident that breaks your heart.
Winter of the Wolf is a beautifully told story that made me cry, made me want to reach out and give Bean a hug and help her discover the truth. Bean is wise beyond her years, she shows strength, courage, and compassion. While the child in this story, so many times she takes on the role of caregiver as her Mother spirals out of control in dealing with her grief. Bean has a strength in spirit and mind, that so many of us wish we had. She knows her brother and is determined to find out the truth. I loved watching her grow emotionally and in her own beliefs (one of the most powerful moments came when the girls held a spiritual ceremony at a location that was special to Sam). I also loved the connection with the wolf – Sam’s spirit animal, as I think we all find glimpses of our loved ones that pass away in nature around us.
This is an incredible story of forgiveness, understanding and spiritual beliefs with an important underlying message to teens. I was not familiar with auto-erotic asphyxiation and was shocked to learn about this practice. I would have liked to have read a bit more about Sam and his connection to the Inuit way of life but I also appreciated how Bean felt a different connection to faith and religion, outside of a building and mostly in nature. Winter of the Wolf is a well written novel that is suitable for young adults and adults alike.
You can purchase a copy of this book on Amazon.
About the Author
Martha Hunt Handler grew up in northern Illinois dreaming about wolves and has always understood that her role in this lifetime is to tell stories and be a voice for nature. She has been an environmental consultant, a magazine columnist, an actress, and a polar explorer, among other occupations. She has also driven across the country in an 18-wheeler and been a grand-prize winner of The Newlywed Game.
Soon after she and her family relocated from Los Angeles to South Salem, New York, she began to hear wolves in her backyard. This was the start of her twenty-plus-year career as an advocate for wolves at the Wolf Conservation Center, where she currently serves as Board President.
Disclosure: I received a digital copy of this book in order to facilitate this review. All opinions expressed are my own.