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Lone Wolf

Lone Wolf

3.9 411
by Jodi Picoult

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A life hanging in the balance…a family torn apart. The #1 internationally bestselling author Jodi Picoult tells an unforgettable story about family secrets, love, and letting go.




A life hanging in the balance…a family torn apart. The #1 internationally bestselling author Jodi Picoult tells an unforgettable story about family secrets, love, and letting go.


On an icy winter night, a terrible accident forces a family divided to come together and make a fateful decision. Cara, once protected by her father, Luke, is tormented by a secret that nobody knows. Her brother, Edward, has secrets of his own. He has kept them hidden, but now they may come to light, and if they do, Cara will be devastated. Their mother, Georgie, was never able to compete with her ex-husband’s obsessions, and now, his fate hangs in the balance and in the hands of her children. With conflicting motivations and emotions, what will this family decide? And will they be able to live with that decision, after the truth has been revealed? What happens when the hope that should sustain a family is the very thing tearing it apart?

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Picoult returns with two provocative questions: can a human join a wolf pack, and who has the right to make end-of-life decisions? Luke Warren, a vital free spirit, has devoted himself to understanding wolf behavior, to the point of having once abandoned his family to live with wolves. Now divorced and raising his 17-year-old daughter, Cara, near his wolf compound, Luke sustains a traumatic brain injury in an accident. His ex-wife, Georgie, remarried to a lawyer, summons Cara’s brother, Edward, from Thailand, where he’s lived for years alienated from his family, who assume the estrangement stems from his father’s rejection of Edward’s homosexuality. Cara wants to keep her father on life support; Edward struggles with resentment but believes his father wouldn’t want to exist in a vegetative state. As Cara and Edward navigate their own conflicts and Luke languishes in a coma, Picoult folds in mesmerizing excerpts of Luke’s book about life with the wolves. There are no surprises, as Picoult (My Sister’s Keeper) as usual probes intriguing matters of the heart while introducing her fans to subjects they might not otherwise explore. You can always count on Picoult for a terrific page-turner about a compelling subject. Agent: Laura Gross, Laura Gross Literary Agency. (Feb. 28)
From the Publisher
“Nobody in commercial fiction cranks the pages more effectively than Jodi Picoult.” —USA Today

“Compelling... fascinating... this page-turner will keep you wondering.” —People Magazine

"Impossible to put down." —Library Journal

Library Journal
Luke Warren has spent decades learning the inner workings of wolf packs. Yet his relationship with his own family is strained. Divorced from his wife and estranged from his son, Edward, Luke remains close to his daughter, Cara. When the two are involved in a car accident that leaves Luke in a coma, Edward must return home to make important medical decisions regarding life-sustaining measures. With facts that aren't always clear and emotional baggage getting in the way, Cara and Edward find themselves on opposite sides regarding what is best for their father. VERDICT Picoult (Sing You Home) once again has written a compelling story involving current issues and family drama with a unique twist. The inclusion of Luke's relationship with wolves adds an element of depth, and details like these are why readers find Picoult's books impossible to put down. Her many fans won't be disappointed. [See Prepub Alert, 9/23/11.]—Madeline Solien, Deerfield P.L., IL
Kirkus Reviews
Wolf expert languishes in a coma while his family debates his fate, in Picoult's latest. Luke Warren doesn't dance with wolves, but he does practically everything else with them—eat raw meat, hunt, howl and endure bites to establish trust. Since he first befriended captive wolves in a small New Hampshire theme park, he's sought to join the pack. In fact, Luke's lupine family, not to mention the fruits of his passion—an Animal Planet series and bestselling book—have effectively supplanted his blood relations. His wife, Georgie, divorced him and is now remarried to a lawyer, Joe. Luke's son, Edward, a gay man, fled for Thailand at 18, after his attempt to come out to his father had unintended consequences. Only daughter Cara remains faithful, even accompanying Luke on some of his wolf adventures. Now, however, Luke's ex-family has been uncomfortably reunited by a tragedy: Driving home after rescuing Cara from a drunken teenage party, Luke crashes his car. Cara, 17, suffers a shoulder injury, but Luke sustains severe brain damage. Edward is summoned home—as the only adult next of kin, he must make medical decisions for his father. Luke lies in a vegetative state with little hope of recovery, and his license indicates he's a willing organ donor. Edward wants to terminate life support—before leaving years ago he was given a handwritten directive indicating his father had anticipated just such a scenario and wanted no extraordinary measures. Cara insists her father will awaken. The alternating voices of the main characters detail how Luke's human family broke up, and how he was able to ingratiate himself with wolves as an itinerant male, a "lone wolf" recruited by a pack to replace a lost member. The thoroughly researched wolf lore is fascinating; the rest of the story is a more conventional soap opera of hospital, and later courtroom histrionics. Readers will care less about Luke's prospects for survival than they will about the outcome for his wild companions.

Product Details

Atria/Emily Bestler Books
Publication date:
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Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.20(d)

Read an Excerpt

Lone Wolf

  • Seconds before our truck slams into the tree, I remember the first time I tried to save a life.

    I was thirteen, and I’d just moved back in with my father. Or, more accurately, my clothes were once again hanging in my former bedroom, but I was living out of a backpack in a trailer on the north end of Redmond’s Trading Post & Dinosaur World. That’s where my father’s captive wolf packs were housed, along with gibbons, falcons, an overweight lion, and the animatronic T. rex that roared on the hour. Since that was where my father spent 99 percent of his time, it was expected that I follow.

    I thought this alternative beat living with my mom and Joe and the miracle twins, but it hadn’t been the smooth transition I’d hoped for. I guess I’d pictured my dad and me making pancakes together on Sunday morning, or playing hearts, or taking walks in the woods. Well, my dad did take walks in the woods, but they were inside the pens he’d built for his packs, and he was busy being a wolf. He’d roll around in the mud with Sibo and Sobagw, the numbers wolves; he’d steer clear of Pekeda, the beta of the pack. He’d eat from the carcass of a calf with wolves on either side of him, his hands and his mouth bloody. My dad believed that infiltrating a pack was far more educational than observing from afar the way biologists did. By the time I moved in with him, he’d already gotten five packs to accept him as a bona fide member—worthy of living with, eating with, and hunting with them, in spite of the fact that he was human. Because of this, some people thought he was a genius. The rest thought he was insane.

    On the day I left my mom and her brand-spanking-new family, my dad was not exactly waiting for me with open arms. He was down in one of the enclosures with Mestawe, who was pregnant for the first time, and he was trying to forge a relationship with her so she’d pick him as the nanny for the pups. He even slept there, with his wolf family, while I stayed up late and flicked through the TV channels. It was lonely in the trailer, but it was lonelier being landlocked at an empty house.

    In the summers, the White Mountains region was packed with visitors who went from Santa’s Village to Story Land to Redmond’s Trading Post. In March, though, that stupid T. rex roared to an empty theme park. The only people who stayed on in the off-season were my dad, who looked after his wolves, and Walter, a caretaker who covered for my dad when he wasn’t on-site. It felt like a ghost town, so I started hanging out at the enclosures after school—close enough that Bedagi, the tester wolf, would pace on the other side of the fence, getting used to my scent. I’d watch my father dig a birthing bowl for Mestawe in her den, and meanwhile, I’d tell him about the football captain who was caught cheating, or the oboe player in the school orchestra who had taken to wearing caftans, and was rumored to be pregnant.

    In return, my dad told me why he was worried about Mestawe: she was a young female, and instinct only went so far. She didn’t have a role model who could teach her to be a good mother; she’d never had a litter before. Sometimes, a wolf would abandon her pups simply because she didn’t know better.

    The night Mestawe gave birth, she seemed to be doing everything by the book. My father celebrated by opening a bottle of champagne and letting me drink a glass. I wanted to see the babies, but my father said it would be weeks before they emerged. Even Mestawe would stay in the den for a full week, feeding the pups every two hours.

    Only two nights later, though, my father shook me awake. “Cara,” he said, “I need your help.”

    I threw on my winter coat and boots and followed him to the enclosure where Mestawe was in her den. Except, she wasn’t. She was wandering around, as far from her babies as she could get. “I’ve tried everything to get her back inside, but she won’t go,” my father said matter-of-factly. “If we don’t save the pups now, we won’t have a second chance.”

    He burrowed into the den and came out holding two tiny, wrinkled rats. At least that’s what they looked like, eyes squinched shut, wriggling in his hand. He passed these over to me; I tucked them inside my coat as he pulled out the last two pups. One looked worse off than the other three. It wasn’t moving; instead of grunting, it let out tiny puffs every now and then.

    I followed my dad to a toolshed that stood behind the trailer. While I was sleeping he’d tossed all the tools into the snow; now the floor inside was covered with hay. A blanket I recognized from the trailer—a fluffy red plaid—was inside a small cardboard box. “Tuck them in,” my father instructed, and I did. A hot water bottle underneath the blanket made it feel warm like a belly; three of the babies immediately began to snuffle between the folds. The fourth pup was cold to the touch. Instead of putting her beside her brothers, I slipped her into my coat again, against my heart.

    When my father returned, he was holding baby bottles full of Esbilac, which is like formula, but for animals. He reached for the little wolf in my arms, but I couldn’t let her go. “I’ll feed the others,” he told me, and while I coaxed mine to drink a drop at a time, his three sucked down every last bottle.

    Every two hours, we fed the babies. The next morning, I didn’t get dressed for school and my father didn’t act like he expected me to. It was an unspoken truth: what we were doing here was far more important than anything I could learn in a classroom.

    On the third day, we named them. My father believed in using indigenous names for indigenous creatures, so all his wolf names came from the Abenaki language. Nodah, which meant Hear me, was the name we gave the biggest of the bunch, a noisy black ball of energy. Kina, or Look here, was the troublemaker who got tangled in shoelaces or stuck under the flaps of the cardboard box. And Kita, or Listen, hung back and watched us, his eyes never missing a thing.

    Their little sister I named Miguen, Feather. There were times she’d drink as well as her brothers and I would believe she was out of the woods, but then she’d go limp in my grasp and I’d have to rub her and slip her inside my shirt to keep her warm again.

    I was so tired from staying up round the clock that I couldn’t see straight. I sometimes slept on my feet, dozing for a few minutes before I snapped awake again. The whole time, I carried Miguen, until my arms felt empty without her in them. On the fourth night, when I opened my eyes after nodding off, my father was staring at me with an expression I’d never seen before on his face. “When you were born,” he said, “I wouldn’t let go of you, either.”

    Two hours later, Miguen started shaking uncontrollably. I begged my father to drive to a vet, to the hospital, to someone who could help. I cried so hard that he bundled the other pups into a box and carried them out to the battered truck he drove. The box sat between us in the front seat and Miguen shivered beneath my coat. I was shaking, too, although I’m not sure whether I was cold, or just afraid of what I knew was coming.

    She was gone by the time we got to the parking lot of the vet’s office. I knew the minute it happened; she grew lighter in my arms. Like a shell.

    I started to scream. I couldn’t stand the thought of Miguen, dead, being this close to me.

    My father took her away and wrapped her in his flannel shirt. He slipped the body into the backseat, where I wouldn’t have to see her. “In the wild,” he told me, “she never would have lasted a day. You’re the only reason she stayed as long as she did.”

    If that was supposed to make me feel better, it didn’t. I burst into loud sobs.

    Suddenly the box with the wolf pups was on the dashboard, and I was in my father’s arms. He smelled of spearmint and snow. For the first time in my life, I understood why he couldn’t break free from the drug that was the wolf community. Compared to issues like this, of life and death, did it really matter if the dry cleaning was picked up, or if he forgot the date of open-school night?

    In the wild, my father told me, a mother wolf learns her lessons the hard way. But in captivity, where wolves are bred only once every three or four years, the rules are different. You can’t stand by and just let a pup die. “Nature knows what it wants,” my father said. “But that doesn’t make it any easier for the rest of us, does it?”

    There is a tree outside my father’s trailer at Redmond’s, a red maple. We planted it the summer after Miguen died, to mark the spot where she is buried. It’s the same type of tree that, four years later, I see rushing toward the windshield too fast. The same type of tree our truck hits, in that instant, head-on.

    •  •  •  

    A woman is kneeling beside me. “She’s awake,” the woman says. There’s rain in my eyes and I smell smoke and I can’t see my father.

    Dad? I say, but I can only hear it in my head.

    My heart’s beating in the wrong place. I look down at my shoulder, where I can feel it.

    “Looks like a scapula fracture and maybe some broken ribs. Cara? Are you Cara?”

    How does she know my name?

    “You’ve been in an accident,” the woman tells me. “We’re going to take you to the hospital.”

    “My . . . father . . . ,” I force out. Every word is a knife in my arm.

    I turn my head to try to find him and see the firemen, spraying a hose at the ball of flames that used to be my dad’s truck. The rain on my face isn’t rain, just mist from the stream of water.

    Suddenly I remember: the web of shattered windshield; the fishtail of the truck skidding; the smell of gasoline. The way when I cried for my dad he didn’t answer. I start shaking all over.

    “You’re incredibly brave,” the woman says to me. “Dragging your father out of the car in your condition . . .”

    I saw an interview once where a teenage girl lifted a refrigerator off her little cousin when it accidentally fell on him. It had something to do with adrenaline.

    A fireman who has been blocking my view moves and I can see another knot of EMTs gathered around my father, who lies very still on the ground.

    “If it weren’t for you,” the woman adds, “your dad might not be alive.”

    Later, I will wonder if that comment is the reason I did everything I did. But right now, I just start to cry. Because I know her words couldn’t be farther from the truth.

  • Meet the Author

    Jodi Picoult received an AB in creative writing from Princeton and a master’s degree in education from Harvard. The recipient of the 2003 New England Book Award for her entire body of work, she is the author of twenty-one novels, including the #1 New York Times bestsellers House Rules, Handle With Care, Change of Heart, and My Sister’s Keeper, for which she received the American Library Association’s Margaret Alexander Edwards Award. She lives in New Hampshire with her husband and three children. Visit her website at JodiPicoult.com.

    Brief Biography

    Hanover, New Hampshire
    Date of Birth:
    May 19, 1966
    Place of Birth:
    Nesconset, Long Island, NY
    A.B. in Creative Writing, Princeton University; M.A. in Education, Harvard University

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    Lone Wolf 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 411 reviews.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Jodi Picoult never fails to get you turing page after page. Not only does she take you to a point where you face a life changing decision she teaches you stuff you may never open your mind to think about. Would reccomend this definatley!
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Yet again, Picoult writes with briliance. Alot of statements in the book make you think. I love wolves, so this book was that much better. However, you dont have to love wolves to love this book. Again Picoult write in brilliance.
    Humbee More than 1 year ago
    Disappointed. I wanted to love this book. I tried to find interest in the human struggle, but it failed in light of the naturalist information of Luke Warren and his wolf pack. What happened after a while was that the book wained and fizzled out. The question or the moral dilemma regarding what constitutes "life" in brain damage and vegetative states was simply not tackled here in earnest, and that left a gaping hole. Cara's and Edward's tug of war over "pulling the plug" or not on their father, and who should do it because one was beloved more than the other, acted as the central point of the novel. I felt it was a book not well thought out. Something was missing. Something important was left out that should have anchored the whole. I'm a huge Picoult fan who sits on the edge of my chair when I have a new novel of hers in my hands. I struggled through the beginning of this book because I kept hoping it would pick up. I loved the parts about the behaviors of wolves in the wild and how Luke Warren found a way to become a part of them. What I found watered down, the human family parts of the story, made the book boring and took away from it as a whole. The family secrets were over rated. This isn't Jodi Picoult at her best. I'm sorry I can only rate this book at a C level. 3.5 stars howling at the moon in sadness
    12Tess22314 More than 1 year ago
    What an interesting parallel of the wolf theme to portray the father who was on life support. Cara Warren, 17, called her father to pick her up after being out with friends who had been drinking. Cara and her father were then in a serious car accident. Cara recovers from her injuries after surgery but her dad was not so lucky. He suffered a traumatic brain injury. He was being kept alive by life support, a ventilator and feeding tube. Cara wants him to pull through and her brother, Edward, wants to pull the plug. This is another excellent portrayal of feelings and human nature that Picoult is famous for.
    SuperBookish More than 1 year ago
    Wonderful Book I enjoyed reading. did not disappoint.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Once again,Jodi Picoult has educated me on several topics in one book. There are several dynamics explored, all interesting enough to keep me reading and wanting more
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    The beauty of Picoult's writing and character development has disappeared into an overly long formulaic pattern of story telling. The characters in her last few books are presented with a life-changing challenge or problem, followed by some kind of courtroom drama that ends in an amazingly quick and unrealistic resolution. The author's writing has become too commercial and the gentle human touch of her earlier work is gone. Well researched, but too long-winded. Try Picoult's first few books; they are treasures and worth the reading time.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    If you've readMs. Picoult's last few novels, you know exactlly where this book is going. With that being said, I am a die hard Picoult fan and appreciate that she writes about issues that are thought provoking. On the other hand I feel that since the success of My Sister's Keeper, the formula for Ms. Picoult's books has been: current events + medical issue + Law and Order style courtroom drama= new book. It's a new song but the same old dance. Where's my old Jodi Picoult?
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    I am a huge fan of Picoult, I have read all her books and loved them all. With that being said this is the worst book I have read in years! Very disappointed
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    True to fashion, Jodi Picoult has written another book I wasn't able to put down until finished. I enjoy how she writes from all the characters points of view - it makes me feel a connection to each. The amount of research that must go into a book such as this (traumatic brain injuries, wolves) is incredible - I always feel as if she is an expert on the subject written about. Unlike other books of Ms. Picoult, I wasn't blindsided at the end with twists and turns - I was able to predict the plot wrinkles. Could be a familiarity with the author, but it did not take away from my enjoyment of the story. Recommend.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    I have read every Picoult book written and eagerly awaited this one. It was unspeakably sad with nothing uplifting in it. A lot of interesting info about wolves but not sure it was worth the painful story.
    sneps More than 1 year ago
    This is my second book I’ve read from Jodi Picoult, and I have to admit, this is actually my favorite one! As a graduate from the marriage and family therapy at UHCL, my first job post-grad was at Memorial Hermann Hospital on the Neuroscience Unit. Working with brain injured patients and their families was a challenging and often emotional experience. I certainly learned about self-care, myself! What I love and appreciated most about Jodi Picoult’s book was that she never explicitly shares what is wrong or right. Rather, she delicately addresses a life-death situation families often experience and describes the painful experience each family member deals with as a father lies in a coma on life support. Family issues, sibling relationships, marriage/divorce, and family alliances are drawn in this book. This is a story that will challenge your own beliefs, question your own will, and have you wondering if leaving your fate in the hands of one child is the best decision. I loved this book because Jodi Picoult does address a tough issue, but rather than persuade the reader, she allows the reader to grapple with her own issues and look at the process of a decision rather than the decision itself. It makes for a great book club discussion, a great tool for those working with families affected with those in ICU, trauma related issues, and life/death decisions. Jodi Picoult also researched extensively about the life of a wolf, wolf packs, and ways they interact with one another. Lone Wolf, the title, certainly carries a lot of meaning in this book. There were many times I wondered how the wolves would have decided and thought it would have been probably an easier decision to make by the pack. Overall, this is an exceptional read and I wouldn’t be surprised if this book lands on many best seller’s lists!
    PamT2u More than 1 year ago
    Lately I have been disappointed with Jodi Picoult's novels. This one was not disappointing but it lacked her usual ability to evoke emotion and debate. The whole dissertation on how wolves operate is kinda fascinating but I think the information was drawn out too much, Each wolf chapter had a corresponding human novel chapter but I felt it was too long. That aside, the book touches on issues that we'd rather not deal with on a day to day basis. No one wants to determine if their loved one should be taken off of life support. In this case you are dealing with a very attached 17 year old and a very detached 24 year old. The human disagreement is real and at times you can identify with either side. I am not saying this is a must read. If you have never read anything by JP before don't start with this or any of her last 3 novels. Her earlier works are far more compelling and worth your time.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    I am still in the middle of reading this book, but by the beginning of the book I was disappointed. The book was very dragged out and long. There are parts where Picoult is trying to make a comparison to the wolves, but it just become so boring to read that I always just skip those chapters. Not an exciting book at all. I just want to finish it already and read something new. Jodi Picoult is an amazing writer, but not this years book. Recently I've felt that Picoult has been going downhill as well with her other book Sign You Home. This was a boring novel as well. The last book before Sing You Home, she wrote House Rules which was by far amazing. I've become disappointed in her two latest books. Please write something better next time Picoult.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    People can you not spoil the book by writing a very detailed summary of the book. If people want to know what the book is about then they can read the BRIEF description of the book. 
    kateylyn13 More than 1 year ago
    In my opinion, this book was very, very good. For being 370 pages, it kept my interest the whole way. I absolutely love it. Jodi Picoult has been my favorite author for some time, and her novels are always amazing. I think that the piece that was the most interesting was the theme: wolves. They are very cool animals, and it was awesome to see her create an entire book using them. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of wolves, likes the author, or is looking for a good, heartbreaking story. There are many themes, but the biggest one would probably be how precious life is and how important family is. Each child has a different view of their father. Jodi Picoult's writing is very descriptive and engaging. The plot was very believeable, as well. This book is definitely something I would read again.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Snoozefest! Boring....would NOT recommend!
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Not my favorite Picoult book. Very boring.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    I was not a huge fan of the past couple of Picoult books but I loved this one. It kept my interest throughout.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    This was a depressing, poorly constructed story. There were no redeeming qualities whatsoever. I have read every Picoult story written. Some I like better than others, but this one was unbelievably disappointing. I am willing to entertain vagaries of human spirit and character, but not only were the characters far removed from believable reality, but the outcome was inadequately explored. I feel as if I wasted precious hours and emotional energy to have taken the time to read it.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Not the best for Nook simple touch. Some chapters are different text, very hard to see on screen. I scroll up 2 text sizes for these chapters and then back again for the regular text chapters.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    I love Jodi Picoult books. In fact this is the sixth one I've read. This one was a brilliant read. I do sympatheize with Cara, but honestly she started getting on my nerves throughout the book. That is the only reason this book is rated 4 stars, but my real rating is 4 1/2 stars. I felt Edward really wanted to do what his father wanted while Cara pushed for the opposite. The court scences were always intense. That is what I love about it. This book was great.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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    Byresia Martin More than 1 year ago
    A deeply moving, gripping, and intelligent book. It's a sad story about a very dysfunctional family, and mostly a dysfunctional man.. Luke, the father was a naturalist who felt more at home in the wild with a pack of wolves than at home. I couldn't understand him and his lifestyle. He couldn't see how much it affected his family. His daughter was selfish, manipulative, argumentative and immature. His son had many issues of his own, but mostly just wanted a father who would support him and unconditionally love him. His wife could not understand her husbands need to live and be a wolf. Had Luke never married, it would have been better. His choices colored the lives of his family and those around him. After a terrible accident caused by the daughter being her normal immature teenage self, Luke is left brain dead. The story that unfold reveals the heartache and deep wounds that he left on his family because of his own extremely selfish choices. It was gripping and painful. This is not a "feel good" book, but a deep realistic look and how one person's actions and choices can touch so many lives.