Title: The Wolf Hour
Author: Sarah Myles
Published: September 2018
Publisher: Allen and Unwin
RRP: $29.99 AUD
Trigger Warnings: Kidnapping, rape, child soldiers
I received a copy of The Wolf Hour from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Thirty-year-old Tessa Lowell has a PhD in psychology and is working in Uganda to research the effects of PTSD and war on child soldiers. She joins a delegation travelling across the Congolese border, deep into the African bush, for peace talks with Joseph Kony, notorious leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army.?
At the camp Tessa meets thirteen-year-old Francis, already an experienced soldier and survivor of shocking violence. The talks stall, and the camp is attacked by other rebels who take Tessa. Isolated in an increasingly volatile situation, she tries to form a bond with Francis.
In Melbourne, Tessa’s parents are notified of the kidnapping, but learn there is little that government agencies can do. Desperate, they contact their son Stephen, an astute if manipulative businessman based in Cape Town. He agrees to search for his sister but has other reasons to contact the rebel forces.
As Tessa’s time runs out, her family begins to fracture. Her parents arrive in Uganda to hear awful news about what she has endured. They also learn the devastating truth about the kind of man their son has become. Only they have the power to stop a terrible injustice. But at what cost to their family?
The Wolf Hour is a deeply atmospheric story that contrasts the lives of two siblings and their parents, while also contrasting the landscapes of Australia and Africa. Each one is so stark that the story draws you in deeper the further you read, as you become invested in the different storylines that each character experiences.
We spend most of the novel with Tessa, a thirty-year old woman who’s left her family to travel to Africa and research how PTSD affects child soldiers. She’s gone against the advice of her parents and older brother (who lives in Cape Town) and is deeply passionate about the work she is doing. So much so that she decides to attend a peace talk meeting in a remote part of the country – only to find herself kidnapped.
Her parents are obviously beside themselves upon the news and in the face of such a shocking notification, her father experiences health problems that force her parents to rely on their oldest child, Stephen, who is a business man in Cape Town with secrets of his own. He agrees to try and help Tessa, but it doesn’t come without its own set of consequences.
Aside from the stunning atmosphere of the book, the one thing I really appreciated in this book was the stark comparison between Tessa and Stephen. One is so willing to make a difference in the world that they’ll accept the pain and emotional heartbreak that comes with achieving such a goal, while the other is determined to make money regardless of the impact on other people (or communities). It calls into question the family dynamic, and makes you wonder how two such different individuals came from the same starting point.
The Wolf Hour was a deft exploration of family amidst tragedy. How do Tessa’s parents deal with what has happened to her and respect her decisions afterwards? More over, how do you react when someone you love does something so terrible that it doesn’t just cross into morally wrong grounds, but into illegal ones, too?
It’s a very thought-provoking book, and I was disappointed that the ending was kind of abrupt, but it does answer some of the questions thrown up throughout the narrative. Overall I gave The Wolf Hour 3.5 out of 5 stars.