you ever considered what you would prefer your loved ones to do if you were
hooked to a ventilator, in a vegetative state, with less than one percent
chance to recover your consciousness and get back to your normal life? Would
you prefer to stay hooked to the machines, unconscious, letting your loved ones
hope that one day you would wake up? Or would you prefer your loved ones to
make the decision to disconnect everything and let you die?
Luke Warren took many risks living in the wild
with the wolves, and he thought about the possibility of ending up in such a
dire situation. Ironically, the wolves had nothing to do with his outcome.
It was a car accident what caused a severe traumatic brain injury from which he would
Warren’s family was stuck with a difficult decision: to disconnect the life
support system and allow him to die or to let him hooked to that system
indefinitely. Luke had expressed his desire to donate his organs; he did not
like the idea of lying unconscious in a hospital bed. That was not the kind of
life he would accept, but the decision to interrupt his life support was not an
easy one to make.
Luke’s daughter, Cara, knew how much her
father valued life. She had witnessed how his dad had gone out of his way to
save the life of a wolf puppy. She had seen how he had managed to save the
lives of wolves in the most unexpected and hopeless situations, so how could
she do that to her own father? On the
other hand, Edward, Luke’s only son, was ready to honor his father’s wishes…
but was that his true motivation? Edward had left America to live in Thailand
for six years after a serious argument he’d had with his father. The shocking
secret of their conflict is revealed close to the end of the novel.
The first chapter of the novel caught my attention in
a way that felt magical and incredible. A guy released the animals of a circus… I
knew I had to get to know that guy. The book was irresistible from the
beginning. The suspense of the story never dwindles, and I appreciate the reading
journey to get to know each character’s thoughts and actions. Picoult crafts a gripping story with
unexpected twists and turns.
Luke Warren loved his family but the wolves
pulled him in a direction that eventually led to the demise of his marriage.
The relationship between Luke Warren and the wolves is based on the experiences
of Shaun Ellis, author of The Man who lives with Wolves, a book that I
am adding to my reading list.
Wolf by Jodi Picoult contains the points of view of all the characters
involved. The chapters are “written” by the characters of the novel. This
clever technique exposes the perspectives and perceptions of the same
situations by the different characters, facilitating a deeper understanding of their
emotions, behaviors and attitudes.
Picoult's literary strategy helps to illuminate
the complexity of the family relationships and the unique circumstances that
shaped those relationships and behaviors. The interactions between the siblings--Cara
and Edward-- is an example of this, and it gave me a lot to think about.
I have mixed feelings toward this novel…
One of the strengths of Lone Wolf is
that it offers the readers a window into a situation that nobody wants to
imagine, and, for this reason, it can spark conversations about what to do when
the options to stay alive are limited to being in a vegetative state. I know
there are different perspectives and views on the matter. It is necessary to
acknowledge that the views and decisions taken will be influenced by culture
and the details and knowledge about each individual case. This story can help
to have serious conversations about difficult topics. (I can tell you I had
some honest conversations with my own family after reading Picoult’s
book). However, there are also several features about the novel that
disappointed me deeply.
The chapters that are written by Luke Warren
are mostly about wolves. We don’t learn much about his personal life. Sometimes
he provides snippets of incorrect information. For example, he states that
wolves don’t grieve. Wolves do grieve, just like other non-human animals. Wolves
are not the exception. I wrote about wolves before here, and I have read enough
books about animals to know that non-human animals do grieve. If you don’t
believe me, you can read the works of ethologists like Marc Bekoff, Jane
Goodall and scientists who dedicate their lives to study animal behavior.
There is a chapter in which Luke Warren shares the experience of being saved by a wolf. Luke could have been killed by a lion mountain, but the wolf did something that prevented Luke from being caught. Yet Luke’s clumsy conclusion about the experience was that the only reason the wolf had protected him from the predator was that the wolf considered Luke a “useful” member of the pack. According to Luke’s warped view, the wolf’s action was not about love or empathy. It was only a matter of convenience.
Again, I have read enough
books about non-human animals to know that empathy and consideration for others
is not something that only belongs to human beings. Through the words of this so-called "expert" who might have been projecting his own character traits on the situation, Jodi Picoult perpetuates
biases against non-human animals, and I found it frustrating.
Last but not least, I was disappointed to learn the dark secrets about Luke Warren’s past. If Jodi Picoult wanted to taint the character's reputation by shocking the reader, she accomplished that. I surmise this is done in an attempt to sell more books, but those unexpected revelations did not feel credible. I expected an enlightening read—not a shallow “American Beauty movie”. I sensed those dreadful secrets were there to upset and shock the readers—not to help to understand Luke Warren. Luke warren genuinely cared about the wolves, and while it is true that he somehow neglected his duties toward his family at some point, this could have been fleshed out to understand his actions from his own perspective. At least she could have given Luke a voice that would have revealed more about this dark facet of his life to make his flaws more credible. Considering this aspect of the novel, I feel cheated.
Picoult seems to imply that Luke Warren cared
too much about wolves and not enough about human life, a contradiction that can
be used by skeptics to ignore the consequences of human actions on the planet
and the burden that we create for other living beings. All living beings are
interconnected and everything plays a role in the web of life to which we all
belong. Yet Picoult appears to create a sort of delusional false dichotomy in
the minds of the readers. It is misleading and disturbing. I also got tired of
people blaming wolves for Luke Warren’s messy personal life. Enough!
Another outdated snippet of information is
given by the neurosurgeon who said that nerve cells cannot regenerate. This
has been debunked by science. I am not trying to say that this information has anything to
do with the outcome of Luke Warren's situation, but it is still important to make it clear.
Wolf gave me a lot to think about. It led to meaningful discussions with my
family, and I am happy I had the chance to read it. It highlights how wolves
care deeply about their pack. An interesting quality that humans can learn from
wolves is how they value the wisdom that may come with years of life experience.
On the other hand, we human beings should examine and eradicate the ageist
stereotypes and attitudes that contaminate our modern societies. Ageism has
become an issue that needs to be addressed. It is horrifying to witness it
these days. I can hardly believe the lack of respect and consideration for the
treasure that experience and knowledge can afford.
A pack of wolves has the wisdom to value the
experience of those who are older. How about that? And they do whatever it
takes to protect all the members of their pack.
Lone Wolf is also a reminder to live
the present to its fullest potential because we don’t know what the future has
in store for us. We only have the present.