Sunday 13 December 2020

BOOK REVIEW: Winter of the Wolf by Martha Hunt Handler

Winter of the Wolf
Author: Martha Hunt Handler
Genre: YA Mystery / Coming of Age
Release Date: 7th July 2020
Greenleaf Book Group

Book Description:
A tragic mystery blending sleuthing and spirituality

​An exploration in grief, suicide, spiritualism, and Inuit culture, Winter of the Wolf follows Bean, an empathic and spiritually evolved fifteen-year-old, who is determined to unravel the mystery of her brother Sam’s death. Though all evidence points to a suicide, her heart and intuition compel her to dig deeper. With help from her friend Julie, they retrace Sam’s steps, delve into his Inuit beliefs, and reconnect with their spiritual beliefs to uncover clues beyond material understanding. 

Both tragic and heartwarming, this twisting novel draws you into Bean's world as she struggles with grief, navigates high school dramas, and learns to open her heart in order to see the true nature of the people around her. Winter of the Wolf is about seeking the truth—no matter how painful—in order to see the full picture.

In this novel, environmentalist and award-winning author, Martha Handler, brings together two important pieces of her life—the death of her best friend’s son and her work as president of the Wolf Conservation Center—to tell an empathetic and powerful story with undeniable messages.

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Ooh, this one did not work out for me. Initially, as the story kicked off, I thought it was going to be right up my alley, but as I continued reading, it just settled on the surface instead of digging deeper into certain discussions and topics that were mentioned but just shrugged under the carpet. I was left feeling a little uncomfortable, disappointed and rather unsatisfied. 14-year-old Bean is struggling to deal with the apparent suicide of her older brother, Sam, the only person it appears Bean truly cares about. Bean knows her brother very well, and she’s certain he would never commit suicide. He was full of life and was happy, so why would he suddenly take his life? That’s exactly what Bean intends to find out.

Bean’s family each grieve in their own way and oftentimes don’t operate as a family unit who are all going thought a shared grief. Bean appeared selfish and inconsiderate at times, particularly towards her mother, who she often complained didn’t bother with housework chores such as washing and cooking. Albeit Bean appearing to be quite capable of taking care of her basic needs during these arduous times, she nonetheless has the audacity to disregard her mother’s breakdown and trauma over the loss of her child. After all, everyone grieves in their own way; there’s no right or wrong way to deal with tragedy, and you can’t dictate how a person should or shouldn’t handle a traumatic situation as the loss of a loved one. Bean admitted herself that she didn’t consider just how much Sam meant to Chase and Adam just because they weren’t as close to Sam as she was to him. Seriously? Okay, well, I give her credit for acknowledging her ignorance. She is still young, so I guess I can cut her some slack.

For reasons unknown to me, Bean isn’t close to her two Chase and Adam. The only person Bean cares about, which, at times, can be viewed as slightly obsessive and inappropriate, is Sam, and I still didn’t see why she had such a bond with Sam that she couldn’t have formed with her other two brothers. Chase and Adam didn’t appear to be monsters or mean in the slightest, so I imagine, if she had wanted to, she could have spent more time with them just as she chose to spend time with Sam. I wasn't convinced that Sam was that more caring than the other two, as there’s not much focus on her living brothers as there was on the brother she had loss. I wouldn’t have minded if the focus on Sam reflected more of his belief into the Inuit people and their culture, especially considering the major effect his belief had in relation to his death. Bean claimed to be very close to Sam but knew little to nothing about the thing Sam was most passionate about, that being the Inuit culture. I was trying hard to find out what it was about each other that made Bean and Sam so close, as we never really got to witness their relationship on the account that he died at the onset of the story. I must say, however, that some of the interaction and conversation between Bean and Sam left me feeling uncomfortable, as it didn’t seem the thing to be said between a brother and his sister. At times, their bond appeared sensual rather than protective, which was awkward. I’m all for showcasing love between siblings, but there was something off about this display of affection.

I wanted a lot more than what was offered to me. I wanted to dig a little deeper into the story to get that heart-wrenching tragedy that was promised at the start of the book. I wanted to empathise with the characters, but they lacked motivation and chemistry (I don’t mean romantic, obviously). The reveal behind the cause of Sam’s death was underwhelming, not the actual event and story behind what happened, but the reaction that followed the revelation of how he died. This could have been a lot more than what it was, which was disappointing because I can see a lot of potential here.

This is the second audiobook I have listened to, and I’m still not sold that audiobooks are better than ebooks, but it could just be down to the way it was narrated, which did not win me over. Had it not been for the fact that it was an audiobook, I probably would not have finished it. I didn’t hate it, but it didn’t leave me wanting more. By the end, I felt unsatisfied - or, maybe I was just hungry, I don’t know. Either way, it wasn’t a great feeling. 
This was just an okay read for me.


Award: Bronze
Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars
Source: NetGalley

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