Book Review - 'Lone Wolf' by Jodi Picoult

I’ve never reviewed a book, ever, not even on Amazon. But after my last post on wolves and the brilliant Barry Lopez book, I feel almost duty-bound to put down my thoughts on ‘Lone Wolf’.

This is the first Jodi Picoult book I’ve read and she has a nice, easy style; by ‘easy’ I mean easy to read. I’ve heard that she researches her subjects very meticulously – that came across in the scenes where the neurosurgeon explained the effects the accident had had on a character’s brain. But, I was more than a little surprised to read, in the info section of the book, that the only research she had done for the wolf was to read Shaun Ellis’ book and meet the man.

I am the first to admit that I was sucked in by the story of Shaun Ellis when I first heard of him, but before I read his book, which I own up to not having finished – I found it too ‘boys own adventure’-ish. There doesn’t seem to be much info in the book on how he survived those 2 years in the wild with no human contact, how he felt being alone, no mention of any scary moments, of which surely there must have been some, at least at the beginning. And then there’s the whole experience of living with the wolves – again, too few details. I would have bought the book on the strength of that alone.

Anyway, to get back on track … Having used Shaun Ellis as her sole source of information, without, I’m assuming, verifying any of it, almost all Jodi Picoult’s information about the wolf is just plain wrong. I couldn’t believe the amount of misrepresentation there was. At the end of the day, this can only harm the wolf. I realise this is a work of fiction but her ‘Luke’ character is written as a wolf expert, so the assumption is that whatever he says about the wolf is correct.

To give just one example – she refers to the ‘lead’ wolf as the alpha male/female; the term ‘alpha’ is now hardly used as its thought to be misleading. To quote David Mech who has been studying wolves since the late 1950s: “Rather than viewing a wolf pack as a group of animals organized with a ‘top dog’ that fought its way to the top, or a male-female pair of such aggressive wolves, science has come to understand that most wolf packs are merely family groups formed exactly the same way as human families are formed.

It doesn’t matter how beautifully written a book is, if its subject is something that exists in our world, I strongly believe that the writer is duty-bound to get the facts right and to present it accordingly, even if it’s to do with animals, for they are no less important.

I actually found the core story about the children fighting each other to be their father’s legal guardian interesting enough and, in a way I wish it had just been about that because I ended up skipping the ‘Luke’ chapters, which were all about him living with a pack of wild wolves.

It’s not my intention to disrespect anyone; all I want to say it, if you want to read this book then treat it – all of it – as a work of fiction. But please do not take any of the wolf stuff as the truth. There is no end to the books and articles filled with solid information about wolves – you don’t even have to buy any of them, just visit the International Wolf Centre.