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Lone Wolf: A Novel

Lone Wolf: A Novel

3.9 411
by Jodi Picoult

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“Perennial bestseller” (Publishers Weekly, starred review) Jodi Picoult tells an unforgettable and gripping story about family secrets, love, and letting go in Lone Wolf.

Luke Warren has spent his life researching wolves. He has written about them, studied their habits intensively, and even lived with them for extended periods of time.


“Perennial bestseller” (Publishers Weekly, starred review) Jodi Picoult tells an unforgettable and gripping story about family secrets, love, and letting go in Lone Wolf.

Luke Warren has spent his life researching wolves. He has written about them, studied their habits intensively, and even lived with them for extended periods of time. In many ways, Luke understands wolf dynamics better than those of his own family: his wife, Georgie, has left him, finally giving up on their lonely marriage; his son, Edward, twenty-four, fled six years ago, leaving behind a shattered relationship with his father. Edward understands that some things cannot be fixed, though memories of his domineering father still inflict pain. Then comes a frantic phone call: Luke has been gravely injured in a car accident with Edward’s younger sister, Cara.

Suddenly everything changes: Edward must return home to face the father he walked out on at age eighteen. He and Cara have to decide their father’s fate together. Though there’s no easy answer, questions abound: What secrets have Edward and his sister kept from each other? What hidden motives inform their need to let their father die…or to try to keep him alive? What would Luke himself want? How can any family member make such a decision in the face of guilt, pain, or both? And most importantly, to what extent have they all forgotten what a wolf never forgets: that each member of a pack needs the others, and that sometimes survival means sacrifice?

Another tour de force by Picoult, Lone Wolf is an evocative exploration of the nature of a family: the love, protection, and strength it can offer—and the price we might have to pay for those gifts. What happens when the hope that should sustain a family is the very thing tearing it apart?

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In retrospect, maybe I shouldn’t have freed the tiger.

The others were easy enough: the lumbering, grateful pair of elephants; the angry capuchin monkey that spit at my feet when I jimmied the lock; the snowy Arabian horses whose breath hung in the space between us like unanswered questions. Nobody gives animals enough credit, least of all circus trainers, but I knew the minute they saw me in the shadows outside their cages they would understand, which is why even the noisiest bunch—the parrots that had been bullied into riding on the ridiculous cumulus-cloud heads of poodles—beat their wings like a single heart while making their escape.

I was nine years old, and Vladistav’s Amazing Tent of Wonders had come to Beresford, New Hampshire—which was a miracle in its own right, since nothing ever came to Beresford, New Hampshire, except for skiers who were lost, and reporters during presidential primaries who stopped off to get coffee at Ham’s General Store or to take a leak at the Gas’n’Go. Almost every kid I knew had tried to squeeze through the holes in the temporary fencing that had been erected by the circus carnies so that we could watch the show without having to pay for a ticket. And in fact that was how I first saw the circus, hiding underneath the bleachers and peering through the feet of paying customers with my best friend, Louis.

The inside of the tent was painted with stars. It seemed like something city people would do, because they hadn’t realized that if they just took down the tent, they could see real stars instead. Me, I’d grown up with the outdoors. You couldn’t live where I did—on the edge of the White Mountain National Forest—and not have spent your fair share of nights camping and looking up at the night sky. If you let your eyes adjust, it looked like a bowl of glitter that had been turned over, like the view from inside a snow globe. It made me feel sorry for these circus folks, who had to improvise with stencils instead.

I will admit that, at first, I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the red sequined topcoat of the ringmaster and the endless legs of the girl on the tightrope. When she did a split in the air and landed with her legs veed around the wire, Louis let out the breath he’d been holding. Lucky rope, he said.

Then they started to bring out the animals. The horses were first, rolling their angry eyes. Then the monkey, in a silly bellman’s outfit, which climbed onto the saddle of the lead horse and bared his teeth at the audience as he rode around and around. The dogs that jumped through hoops, the elephants that danced as if they were in a different time zone, the rainbow fluster of birds.

Then came the tiger.

There was a lot of hype, of course. About how dangerous a beast he was, about how we shouldn’t try this at home. The trainer, who had a doughy, freckled face like a cinnamon roll, stood in the middle of the ring as the hatch on the tiger’s cage was lifted. The tiger roared and, even as far away as I was, I smelled his bouillon breath.

He leaped onto a metal stand and swiped at the air. He stood on his hind legs on command. He turned in a circle.

I knew a thing or two about tigers. Like: If you shaved one, its skin would still be striped. And every tiger had a white mark on the back of each ear, so that it seemed like it was keeping an eye on you even when it was walking away.

Like: They belonged in the wild. Not here, in Beresford, while the crowd shouted and clapped.

In that instant two things happened. First, I realized I didn’t much like the circus anymore. Second, the tiger stared right at me, as if he had searched out my seat number beforehand.

I knew exactly what he wanted me to do.

After the evening show, the performers went down to the lake behind the elementary school to drink and play poker and swim. It meant that most of their trailers, parked behind the big top, were empty. There was a guard—an Everest of a man with a shaved head and a hoop ring piercing his nose—but he was snoring to beat the band, with an empty bottle of vodka beside him. I slipped inside the fence.

Even in retrospect, I can’t tell you why I did it. It was something between that tiger and me; that knowledge that I was free, and he wasn’t. The fact that his unpredictable, raw life had been reduced to a sideshow at three and seven.

The trickiest cage to unlatch was the monkey’s. Most, though, I could open with an ice pick I’d stolen from my grandfather’s liquor cabinet. I let out the animals swiftly and quietly, watching them slip into the folds of the night. They seemed to understand that discretion was in order; not even the parrots made a sound as they disappeared.

The last one I freed was the tiger. I figured the other animals ought to have a good fifteen minutes of lead time to get away before I released a predator on their heels. So I crouched down in front of the cage and drew in the soft dirt with a pebble, marking time on my wristwatch. I was sitting there, waiting, when the Bearded Lady walked by.

She saw me right away. “Well, well,” she said, although I couldn’t see her mouth in the mess of the whiskers. But she didn’t ask me what I was doing, and she didn’t tell me to leave. “Watch out,” she said. “He sprays.” She must have noticed the other animals were gone—I hadn’t bothered to try to disguise the open, empty cages and pens—but she just stared at me for a long moment, and then walked up the steps to her trailer. I held my breath, expecting her to call the cops, but instead I heard a radio. Violins. When she sang along, she had a deep baritone voice.

I will tell you that, even after all this time, I remember the sound of metal teeth grinding against each other as I opened the tiger’s cage. How he rubbed up against me like a house cat before leaping the fence in a single bound. How I could actually taste fear, like almond sponge cake, when I realized I was bound to get caught.

Except . . . I didn’t. The Bearded Lady never told anyone about me, and the circus roadies who cleaned up elephant dung were blamed instead. Besides, the town was too busy the next morning restoring order and apprehending the loose animals. The elephants were found splashing in the town fountain after knocking down a marble statue of Franklin Pierce. The monkey had made its way into the pie case at the local diner and was devouring a chocolate dream silk torte when he was caught. The dogs were Dumpster diving behind the movie theater, and the horses had scattered. One was found galloping down Main Street. One made its way to a local farmer’s pasture to graze with cattle. One traveled over ten miles to a ski hill, where it was spotted by a trauma helicopter. Of the three parrots, two were permanently lost, and one was found roosting in the belfry of the Shantuck Congregational Church.

The tiger, of course, was long gone. And that presented a problem, because a renegade parrot is one thing, but a loose carnivore is another. The National Guard was dispersed into the White Mountain National Forest and for three days, schools in New Hampshire stayed closed. Louis came to my house on his bike and told me rumors he’d heard: that the tiger had slaughtered Mr. Wolzman’s prize heifer, a toddler, our principal.

I didn’t like to think about the tiger eating anything at all. I pictured him sleeping high in a tree during the day; and at night, navigating by the stars.

Six days after I freed the circus animals, a National Guardsman named Hopper McPhee, who had only joined up a week earlier, found the tiger. The big cat was swimming in the Ammonoosuc River, its face and paws still bloody from feeding on a deer. According to Hopper McPhee, the tiger came flying at him with intent to kill, which is why he had to shoot.

I doubt that highly. The tiger was probably half asleep after a meal like that, and certainly not hungry. I do, however, believe that the tiger rushed Hopper McPhee. Because like I said, nobody gives animals enough credit. And as soon as that tiger saw a gun pointed at him, he would have understood.

That he was going to have to give up the night sky.

That he’d be imprisoned again.

So, that tiger? He made a choice.

If you live among wolves you have to act like a wolf.

—Nikita Khrushchev, Soviet premier, quoted in Observer,
London, September 26, 1971

© 2012 Jodi Picoult

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.
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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.