A breakout book from Stephen Marche, The Hunger of the Wolf is a novel about the way we live now: a sweeping, genre-busting tale of money, morality, and the American dream--and the men and monsters who profit in its pursuit--set in New York, London, and the Canadian wilderness.
Hunters found his body naked in the snow. So begins this astonishing new work of literary fiction. The body in the snow is that of Ben Wylie, the heir to America's second-wealthiest business dynasty, and it is found in a remote patch of Northern Canada. Far away, in postcrash New York, Jamie Cabot, the son of the Wylie family's housekeepers, must figure out how and why Ben died. He knows the answer lies in the tortured history of the Wylie family, who, over three generations, built up their massive holdings into several billion dollars' worth of real estate, oil, and information systems despite a terrible family secret they must keep from the world. The threads of the Wylie men's destinies, both financial and supernatural, lead twistingly but inevitably to the naked body in the snow and a final, chilling revelation.
The Hunger of the Wolf is a novel about what it means to be a man in the world of money. It is a story about fathers and sons, about secrets that are kept within families, and about the cost of the tension between the public face and the private soul. Spanning from the mills of Depression-era Pittsburgh to the swinging London of the 1960s, from desolate Alberta to the factories of present-day China, it is a bold and breathtakingly ambitious work of fiction that uses the story of a single family to capture the way we live now.
The publisher's summary says "The Hunger of the Wolf is a novel about what it means to be a man in the world of money. It is a story about fathers and sons, about secrets that are kept within families, and about the cost of the tension between the public face and the private soul." Except that THAT is what The Hunger of the Wolf wants to BE...but isn't. It starts out brilliantly--Mr. Marche is a phenomenal writer--but then it fizzles. The commentary about what it means to be "a man in the world of money" isn't insightful or revealing enough--there are moments of cleverness, but simply moments. The relationship between fathers and sons (yes, it's meant to be a key part of the novel) is not paid off because none of the relationships depicted here have any real depth (the novel covers three or four generations and it's only 8 hours long...that should tell you something). And the costs of maintaining a public face while hiding the truth about yourself is too obvious a theme, revealed without any subtlety. The brothers are werewolves (I am not giving that much away; you find out as soon as the caretaker's son stumbles upon all kinds of documents spelling out the family's history--hard to believe that a family so obsessed with privacy would leave all these documents laying around for the taking, but whatever). But the werewolf theme is just there, barely affecting anyone, really (in fact, if you like werewolf novels, this one will disappoint you; if you don't like werewolf novels, that won't be the reason you dislike this one). It is almost a side note, even though it's meant to be 'the key' to the family's tragic history (yes it's supposed to be a metaphor for the 'wildness inside' except that, again, it is not a deep or surprising metaphor. Simply there.) I think this novel needed to be longer--although I am loathe to say this since I really couldn't wait for it to be over. Cannot recommend, which is a tragedy itself considering the promise of the first 20 minutes or so.
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