We Were Wolves is a cold and dark tale of a boy and his father, and how everything implodes between them.
It has such a literary style of writing, introspective and thoughtful. It felt like the boy as an adult talking about this experience that shaped his life forever. At its bones, its a story of trauma and trying to save a parental figure when they should be taking care of their child. It’s about PTSD and retreating into imagination to escape, and it’s about grief and loss and neglect.
The boy (I’m racking my brain but now realising I don’t think he ever had a name?!) lived in a caravan in the woods with his father, John, who has PTSD after the Afghanistan war and he came home and couldn’t reconnect with his family. He’s fallen in with bad people and does robberies, but the boy persistently chooses his father, chooses to love and forgive him and see passed his wounds to be there for him. It’s unconditional love, and it is beautiful on the boy’s part — except for the fact he’s neglected and endangered by his father continually. Their bond is toxic but understandable. But the parental neglect hurt double because the boy HAS A MOTHER. But she just up and let her teen (pre-teen?) son go!?! She loves him, but I honestly found her behaviour unacceptable. This was an at-risk child the entire time. And not one adult cared.
The boy also has a dog 🥺 whom arrives at the right time to give him comfort.
There’s a layer of magic to the story too, with the boy seeing woods and ancient bison — basically him coping with his father’s erratic behaviour. When things are going wrong, he feels wolves. I always love this sort of element to a book, raw and dark and aching.
The illustrations are also beautiful! The style so perfectly complimented the tale, wintery with melting edges and dark colours. Totally maintain my belief that all books should be illustrated!!!
The only thing that didn’t click with me (personal preference) is that it was very slow and I felt like the narrator was worried the audience would drift so kept spoiling the book himself?! The boy would start off giving you a HUGE piece of information that took the weight out of any revelations. It’s the style though. But you really know the ending by, um, reading page 1…
A gritty and rugged story of survival and neglect, of yearning to save a parent and trying to find language to process what’s happening. Amazingly illustrated and told with a layer of yearning.
Thank you to Walker Books Australia for the review-copy! Out June, 2021.
Boy lives in a caravan on his own in the woods. His dad, John, is in prison and promises to get out soon. All the boy needs to do is survive alone for a little while longer. But dark forces are circling – like the dangerous man in the Range Rover, who is looking for his stolen money. And then there are the ancient forces that have lain asleep in the woods for an age…
A darkly intense illustrated novel about survival, the natural world and the complex bond between father and son.