⇒“… when you open your heart to rewilding a landscape, the truth is, you’re opening your heart to rewilding yourself.” —Once There Were Wolves by Charlotte McConaghy⇐
Author: Charlotte McConaghy
(4.28 stars – Goodreads rating)
Genre: Fiction / Mystery
Publication Date: August 3, 2021, by Flatiron Books
272 Pages (Hardcover)
Triggers: sexual assault, murder, animal abuse, violent death, and a bit of gore
I had a magic power that wasn’t magic. I felt what other people felt, and I knew what lived in those touches and how it was mostly sweetness.-Once There Were Wolves
My daughter is obsessed with wolves. She loves the wildness of them, their beauty, and how clever they are. She is taken by how cute wolf pups are, all while knowing that they are deadly predators and fiercely protective of their pack members. Wolves are incredible. Did I say my daughter is obsessed? I am. It’s me. I am obsessed with wolves.
But that’s only one reason why I picked up this August release by Charlotte McConaghy a couple of months ago. Although the cover may not stand out in a crowd – or on a shelf – the feel of it is something special. When you run your hands over it, it’s almost soft. Like, your fingertips want to stay and hang out for a while. And that was before I even read what the book was about.
So let’s check out the blurb…
Inti Flynn arrives in Scotland with her twin sister, Aggie, to lead a team of biologists tasked with reintroducing fourteen gray wolves into the remote Highlands. She hopes to heal not only the dying landscape, but Aggie, too, unmade by the terrible secrets that drove the sisters out of Alaska.
Inti is not the woman she once was, either, changed by the harm she’s witnessed—inflicted by humans on both the wild and each other. Yet as the wolves surprise everyone by thriving, Inti begins to let her guard down, even opening herself up to the possibility of love. But when a farmer is found dead, Inti knows where the town will lay blame. Unable to accept her wolves could be responsible, Inti makes a reckless decision to protect them. But if the wolves didn’t make the kill, then who did? And what will Inti do when the man she is falling for seems to be the prime suspect?
Fear makes for danger, whether it was there to begin with or not.-Once There Were Wolves
To start, Inti is a very strong female main character. Now, granted, she has a lot going on in her head and in life as a whole. She’s away from home, doing a difficult job, she’s got a dependent sister, a defensive attitude, and some pretty gnarly ghosts in her past. But she’s making it. Right now, wolves are her business and she’s handling her business, no holds barred. Everyone doesn’t like it, but hey, wolves aren’t for everyone, right?
Now let’s talk about something else cool about Inti: her mirror touch synesthesia. Mirror touch synesthesia is a condition that causes a person to feel the sensation of touch whenever they see someone else being touched. This can be something as mild as a hand on an arm or as intense as a punch… or something worse. Inti’s ability helps her to connect to the wolves, but it could also be having the opposite effect on all her human connections.
The book is carried by Inti, but she isn’t the only dynamic draw here. She has an enigmatic, selectively mute identical twin sister, a mom who is a homicide detective, and a dad whose influence is both beneficial and detrimental to them all. This is a story with priceless backstory deftly woven into the present action that makes readers appreciate and respect these characters and their motivations.
We stomped through the world and crumpled things where we walked, too human, not creature enough.-Once There Were Wolves
So, I know you saw it. At the top of the page? My 4.5 rating. Yes. That’s not a mistake. It has been a long time since I have enjoyed a story as much as this one. The writing style, the plot, the subtle mystery, the turn. I loved it all. I literally chose this book for its wonderfully-feeling cover and it did not disappoint. This is the type of book that I always hope for at the beginning of every year, and sometimes fail to find. Is it perfect? Not entirely. But is it good enough for me to recommend it and give it a permanent home on my bookshelf? Absolutely.
This book will appeal to readers who appreciate when a skilled writer puts pen to paper (or fingers to keys). The prose is smart, suspenseful, and subtly poetic. Read it if you love strong female leads. Read it if you’re into a rugged type of romance as a side story. Read it if you’re into rediscovering the strong natural ties between human nature and nature nature. Read it if you’re into books with unexpected plot twists that change everything you thought you knew. And read it if you, like me, are kinda crazy about wolves!