A comic strip about a brother's death? Unusual, but very little is usual in Kuhlman's understated yet searing novel, Wolf Boy, which chronicles a year in the life of a family that has suffered an unthinkable loss.
College student Francis Harrelson leaves home one morning to drive to a conference in Chicago. It's such an ordinary day that his family barely registers his departure. But before the afternoon ends, Francis will be killed in a car accident. His father, Gene, is the recipient of the crushing news and informs the rest of the family, in effect "firing the gun," as Kuhlman skillfully puts in, that will set the family on an excruciating course.
The Harrelsons feel startlingly alone in the wake of this death. Gene wonders whether he might have changed the turn of events by delaying Francis with a few additional words that morning. Mrs. Harrelson believes that her insistence that Francis live at home instead of on campus makes her culpable. Ten-year-old Crispy takes comfort in her fantasies about a pop musician. But 13-year-old Stephen's reaction is perhaps most poignant: He creates a comic strip, "The Adventures of Wolf Boy," as a way to mourn the loss and regain control of his life. His comics appear throughout the book, helping both Stephen and readers cope with a world in which creativity and imagination can prove reliable assets. (Summer 2006 Selection)