"At the start of another pitiless winter, the wolves have come for the children of Keelut. Three children have been taken from this isolated Alaskan village, including the six-year-old boy of Medora and Vernon Slone. Stumbled by grief and seeking consolation, Medora contacts nature writer and wolf expert Russell Core. Sixty years old, ailing in both body and spirit, and estranged from his daughter and wife, Core arrives in Keelut to investigate the killings. Immersing himself in this settlement at the end of the world, he discovers the horrifying darkness at the heart of Medora Slone and learns of an unholy truth harbored by this village"--Amazon.com.
When I started to read this novel I thought Jack London had been reincarnated and I was back in the Klondike with White Fang. The mood and wildness of London’s landscapes are skilfully recreated in this brutal novel. You feel cold just reading the descriptions. But the protracted violence makes you feel colder still and moves you away from London’s ‘gentler’ depiction. But I think that London’s belief that man's actions are the main cause of the behavior of their animals is quite crucial to the intention of this novel in a curious juxtaposition where the animal’s actions cause the behaviour of Man where Man has totally misunderstood the animal. There is a suggestion that Vernon was a human wolf but the premise fails, as wolves are not gratuitously violent. I think that point is made by Core in the early stages of the novel. They kill to feed. Man, here, kills to feed? Feed what? His ego?
I did appreciate this novel greatly; setting aside the graphic violence, which was purposeful in terms of the plot, and character development, the writing was paradoxically elegant given the subject matter. And the final twist was magnificent. I never saw it coming and it left a whole new avenue of thought to pursue, Romulus and Remus?
Books like these can be challenging because you can simply read them at face value, a story of one man, one coldly violent man or you can take your literary ice pick and chip away through the story’s veneer to the heart of it and emerge the richer. It is not a feelgood read by any means, if there is any upliftment, it is to delight in the skill and craft of this writer but it is a book worth reading.
Hold The Dark by William Giraldi may be short but it certainly packs a punch. This book is an intense examination of all that is primeval within us that is so intense set on the frozen wastes of Alaska. Where the wolf and humans live cheek by jowl and recognise each other as supreme hunters.
The book begins with a mystery when the wolves have come and taken three children from the isolated village of Keelut. They have also taken the child of Medora and Vernon Sloane and Medora sends for the wolf expert Russell Core to find him. Core discovers that there is a dark core to Medora and the village is awash with secrets. Secrets the people of Keelut do not want to share with outsides that they do not trust.
When Vernon Slone returns from a desert war to find his child dead and his wife missing so begins a vengeful and frantic search for his wife and will not hesitate to kill anyone that tries to stop him. The race across the frozen tundra Core is desperate to protect Medora from her husband and it is through this search he discovers the dark heart of Keelut and its secret.
Hold The Dark is a stunning but short thriller that can send a chill through you. It holds a light up to the dark edges of civilisation and really does ask questions of the reader.
There are secrets in this village and when three children are taken by wolves, one of the mothers, Medora calls for help from a wolves expert, a man named Core. When he comes to the village he finds all is not what it seems.
This is a novel that will not appeal to everyone, for one thing it is very violent. The violence does, however, fit with the darkness of the story. I never understood where this novel was going, but I found the strangeness compelling. What I thought would happen did not, and what did happen was mindboggling. There is still one question that I did not feel was adequately answered but maybe I should have been able to figure it out on my own.
ARC from publisher.
Wolves are taking children in the remote village of Keelut. The mother, Medora Slone, of the third victim, a 7 year old boy named Bailey, writes to Russell Core, who authored a book about wolves, to ask him to come help her find her son. He travels to Keelut for reasons even he can’t explain, to help. There he encounters a shamanistic world that isn’t nearly as simple as it first seems.
Giraldi is very good at describing brutal and possibly evil acts in matter of fact language. He gives the reader the facts and the opportunity to sort out the meaning and implications. The story builds slowly but snaps into place suddenly (on page 70) after Bailey’s father returns from the war and confronts the truth of his disappearance. It never lags from there.
Russell Core is a nature writer and an expert on wolves, with a famous book about them. When wolves take two, then three children from Keelut, the mother of the third child, a six-year-old boy named Bailey, asks him to come help her understand what is happening. Untethered from family and any part of life he finds meaningful, Core responds to her plea, and is drawn deeper and deeper into the lives, ways, and secrets of the remote village. The child’s mother, Medora Slone is married, but her husband Vernon has joined the military, fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan, this nation’s “desert wars.” Do not assume this has made a regular American of him.
Yet Slone is described as a renegade, and Core wonders how this squares with life as a soldier. His best friend, an Alaska Native named Cheeon says Slone can make himself look like he is doing what he is supposed to, but will be doing what he wants to, nonetheless. Cheeon did not join the military for that reason. He hadn’t that gift.
When Slone returns to find his son dead and his wife missing, well, in the classic crime novel vernacular, “all hell breaks loose.” Hell, in this case, plays out during the year’s longest nights—18 hours of darkness—and over a tundra so vast “whole states could fit on its frozen breadth.” The weather is practically another character in this frozen terrain: “Like grief, cold is an absence that takes up space. Winter wants the soul and bores into the body to get it.” Before this book is through quite a few souls fall to the cold, the wolves, and the people.
Richard Ferrone’s narration perfectly fits the other-worldliness of the Alaska Natives and the care with which residents of the far north must operate in their unforgiving environment. Giraldi is the fiction editor of Boston University’s literary magazine Agni.