Things aren't going too well for wolf biologist Helen Ross. At 29, she's unemployed (recently retired dishwasher), single (boyfriend of two years left her for Africa), and has just learned that her father is marrying someone younger, richer, and prettier than herself (completely accurate). Back in her lonely log cabin in Cape Cod, frantically chain-smoking, she receives a message from her former lover Dan Prior. Prior, also a biologist, works for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service wolf-recovery program. In return for helping him track the lupine posse, Prior will provide her with a cabin, truck, and a snowmobile for good measure in a rustic little town called Hope, just outside of Helena, Montana. Apparently, Ross has never heard the proverb "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is," and happily skips off to Big Sky Country.
Within moments of her arrival, she finds out what she's up against: a small town with a long history of wolf fear and loathing, no resources (big surprise), and a powerful rancher who will do whatever it takes to eliminate the wolves. The rancher, testosterone-saturated Buck Calder, has got the community riled up after a wolf stalked his daughter's home and killed the family dog. He won't stop until every last endangered wolf is dead, which proves problematic for Ross when she decides to romance his 18-year-old son, Luke. Cynics be warned: their love affair spawns a trove of gooey pillow talk and syrupy prose. Even so, Evans has made impressive strides as a writer since his debut novel, The Horse Whisperer, and his storytelling has reached a noticeably new level of sophistication: the plot is tight, the characterization is realistic, and the dialogue is crisp. --Rebekah Warren
From Publishers Weekly
Fans of Evans's bestselling debut, The Horse Whisperer, may find that this issue-oriented follow-up is a case of deja vu. Montana is again the setting, animals are crucial to the plot and a love story between dissimilar people is the heart-tugger. The bitter debate over the reintroduction of wolves into the American West provides the hook. After the book opens with the killing of a family dog by a stray wolf, the battle lines are quickly and clearly drawn. The wolf-hating cowboys are led by quintessential alpha male Buck Calder, the region's biggest rancher, bully and philanderer. Primary opposition comes from wolf biologist Helen Ross, a despised Easterner hired to keep the wolves safe from ranchers and more selective about their predation. She eventually teams up?professionally and romantically?with Calder's stuttering, insecure son Luke, much to his father's disgust. This underplayed romance is nicely done, as is the burgeoning revolt within the Calder household by Luke and Eleanor, Buck's surprisingly self-possessed wife. But Evans once again shows himself capable of graceless writing. As if preparing for the inevitable casting call, detailed character studies occupy large portions of the initial 100 pages, preempting later, subtler disclosures. His passages on wolf behavior read like mediocre nature film scripts. The novel is more a work of ideology than imagination. Among its overt messages: man is out of sync with nature; the New West is full of lonely, emotionally scarred people licking their wounds; and wolves make better alpha males than humans do. Literary Guild and Doubleday Book Club main selection; author tour.
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