Empire of Wild: A Novel

Empire of Wild: A Novel

by Cherie Dimaline


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“Deftly written, gripping and informative. Empire of Wild is a rip-roaring read!”—Margaret Atwood, From Instagram

Empire of Wild is doing everything I love in a contemporary novel and more. It is tough, funny, beautiful, honest and propulsive—all the while telling a story that needs to be told by a person who needs to be telling it.”—Tommy Orange, author of There There

A bold and brilliant new indigenous voice in contemporary literature makes her American debut with this kinetic, imaginative, and sensuous fable inspired by the traditional Canadian Métis legend of the Rogarou—a werewolf-like creature that haunts the roads and woods of native people’s communities.

Joan has been searching for her missing husband, Victor, for nearly a year—ever since that terrible night they’d had their first serious argument hours before he mysteriously vanished. Her Métis family has lived in their tightly knit rural community for generations, but no one keeps the old ways . . . until they have to. That moment has arrived for Joan.

One morning, grieving and severely hungover, Joan hears a shocking sound coming from inside a revival tent in a gritty Walmart parking lot. It is the unmistakable voice of Victor. Drawn inside, she sees him. He has the same face, the same eyes, the same hands, though his hair is much shorter and he's wearing a suit. But he doesn't seem to recognize Joan at all. He insists his name is Eugene Wolff, and that he is a reverend whose mission is to spread the word of Jesus and grow His flock. Yet Joan suspects there is something dark and terrifying within this charismatic preacher who professes to be a man of God . . . something old and very dangerous.

Joan turns to Ajean, an elderly foul-mouthed card shark who is one of the few among her community steeped in the traditions of her people and knowledgeable about their ancient enemies. With the help of the old Métis and her peculiar Johnny-Cash-loving, twelve-year-old nephew Zeus, Joan must find a way to uncover the truth and remind Reverend Wolff who he really is . . . if he really is. Her life, and those of everyone she loves, depends upon it.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Tobias Carroll

…in maintaining its focus primarily on Joan's very grounded love for her husband and family, Dimaline's novel is able to take the plot to some unexpectedly phantasmagorical places without losing sight of its emotional core. Stories and their telling run throughout this book, from official histories to tales of uncanny and mythic creatures whispered about late at night…Dimaline nods to another memorable bard as well, in her references to the songs of Johnny Cash—particularly his late-career American Recordings albums. Though it's not explicitly mentioned in Empire of Wild, it's hard not to think of Cash's take on Nick Lowe's "The Beast in Me" when reading this novel—and how, just like Cash, Dimaline here turns an old story into something newly haunting and resonant.

Publishers Weekly

★ 04/13/2020

Dimaline’s inventive, passionate quest narrative (after her YA novel The Marrow Thieves) draws on the Métis myth of a werewolflike creature known as Rogarou. In the predominantly Catholic First Nations community of Arcand, Ontario, tales of the Rogarou haunt the town’s inhabitants (“Broke Lent? The rogarou will come for you”). After Joan Beausoleil argues one night with her husband, Victor, over whether she should sell her ancestral land, Victor walks out and never comes back, and Joan spends nearly a year searching for him. Dimaline wrenchingly describes Joan’s rabid determination, and conveys the passion of their early relationship. Just as Joan is about to give up hope, she recognizes Victor in a revival tent at a WalMart parking lot, but he claims not to know her and to be Rev. Eugene Wolff. Shocked and angry at being told that she’s mistaken, Joan sets out to discover what happened to him. Aided by her 12-year-old nephew and an elder who convinces Joan that Victor is under the spell of the Rogarou, Joan tracks the beast in search of answers. The novel is at times sad, at times humorous, and at times terrifying. Smartly written with believable characters, a tight plot, and breathtaking sentences, this is a must-read literary thriller. Agent: Ron Eckel, Cooke International. (July)

Book Marks

An emotionally complex, at times mysterious, always enthralling book that skillfully weaves threads of colonialist legacy and trauma, familial bonds, human resilience and fallibility, and so much heart.” 

Margaret Atwood

Deftly written, gripping and informative. Empire of Wild is a rip-roaring read!

Harper’s Bazaar


Library Journal


Joan, a Métis woman living in rural Ontario, has been looking for her missing husband, Victor, for 11 months. While her extended family wants her to acknowledge that Victor likely is either dead or has left her, Joan's stubbornness is justified when she sees someone who appears to be Victor, acting as a preacher in a tent revival meeting in a Walmart parking lot. Now going by the name Reverend Wolff, Victor does not seem to remember who he is or to recognize Joan, but she suspects he is somehow under the control of the sinister Mr. Heiser or possibly possessed by a Rogarou, a mythical half-man, half-wolf creature. With the help of her 12-year-old cousin, Zeus, and some medicine provided by community elder Ajean, Joan sets out to rescue Victor before it's too late. VERDICT This new work from Canadian Métis writer Dimaline, celebrated for her YA novel The Marrow Thieves, recalls Neil Gaiman's American Gods in its grittiness and humor as well as its depiction of gods and legendary creatures interfering in the lives of contemporary humans. Despite Joan's tendency to smoke and drink too much and make foolish choices, her dogged determination to reclaim Victor and her belief in their love make her someone to root for. [See Prepub Alert, 1/15/20.]—Christine DeZelar-Tiedman, Univ. of Minnesota Libs., Minneapolis


…close, tight, stark, beautiful…Dimaline has crafted something both current and timeless, mythic but personal.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062975942
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 07/28/2020
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 81,750
Product dimensions: 5.80(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.20(d)

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