The winter of the wolf
A bond between a brother and sister can be strong and each one has the other’s back when things go wrong. Bean is the central character in this story and her heart is always in the right place and yet for some reason she is not treated like her three brothers. Used as a servant, forced to do extra chores even ones her mother should be doing for her father, Bean tries to keep it calm at times but then she cannot. Sam is her older brother and they are inseparable until something happens and her life turns upside down and things spiral in many different directions. Sam was interested in the ways of the Innuit Indians and his ideals and customs on life and death differed from that of his family. He was smart, funny and astute but at times like all kids lost track of time and his assignments might be delayed or done at the last minute. Learning that he might have not completed a paper his father grounded him, and this is where things take a darker turn.
The death of a brother, child or friend is hard enough for adults to deal with but when Bean, finds herself lost at age 15 when her brother Sam dies a mysterious death, her life takes on a different meaning and she begins to wonder what really happened, did someone take his life and why doesn’t anyone in her family understand her grief and sorry. The story focuses on Bean, her relationship with her parents, the fact that Sam drove her to pick up her best friend to spend the night during a terrible ice storm, her father’s car crashed and her brother injured, did not take away from the fact that her father showed no empathy, blamed her for the accident as well and berated her mother. The author allows us to get to know Sam through the many flashbacks that Bean shares with us including her last birthday card from him. Denying herself any pleasures, burying herself within herself it took her birthday and her friend Julie who she stopped seeing for a long time, to come back into her life, give her a true purpose and search for the answers that no one else wanted: What really happened to Sam?
Bean cannot seem to let things go and she and Julie made a pact to investigate what really happened to Sam. Did he really commit suicide? Whose belt was tied around his neck. Did her two brothers know anything and what about his best friend Skip? Jenny his girlfriend at the time why the breakup?
Bean analyses things and is determined to get the answers but first a confrontation with her brother Chase helps clear the misty air. Having to get some math help gives her time to really talk things out with her father for the first time and his apology to her for not believing her account of the accident and the presence and meaning of the deer. Bean is hardheaded, smart but often reverts into herself and only sees things through her eyes not others. Added in her mother’s regressions at times and the secret between them . Trust is at the heart of this family’s discord and differences of opinion and how she, Sam and her mother see the world and their premonitions are the opposite of her father and brothers.
Revelations are made informative and research about Inuit customs and beliefs on death and crossing over are detailed and family differences are starting to be put aside and Bean begins to feel part of her two brother’s lives but her determination to find out what really happened to Sam is what drives her and the plot forward in many directions.
Everything points to suicide and yet after talking with her two brothers and Julie, Bean’s intuition and insight kicks in and she will not stop until she retraces his steps and thoughts to find the reason behind his death. Digging deep into Innuit beliefs and the courage she shows will she learn the reality behind his death that others will learn from in the future?
Bean and Julie decide to do something to find out if Sam’s spirit moved on into something else. She researched what it entails to do a Shamanic Ritual and the fact that she hears a wolf howling and sees one often wondering if the wolf is where Sam’s spirit lies. The author allows readers to experience the seven steps of the ritual, the experience is quite interesting and the final thoughts that both Bean and Julie have help both to deal with Sam’s death and his spirit. But not everyone believed her about the Doe until her father finally saw what happens to it and where it finally winds up. Sam mixed his blood with the doe he believed that its spirit would be mixed with his and the visions she sees are quite compelling and the fact that she sees Skip his best friend leads her to wonder what part he might have played in what happened. Things get tense but then 14 months later the author reveals through Skip the truth behind what Sam did and if he really did commit suicide or was there another reason. Forgiveness, trust, understanding and a letter that never got read until anger welled up, fear, frustration and then the truth comes out but can this family ever become one and whole and will they forgive the one person that feels responsible for Sam’s death?
Through the eyes of 15 year old Bean we see the visions, hear the voices, experience the wonders of the Enchanted Forest Island, see the wolf lope down the path and watch Bean float right along behind it. Seeing Skip in her vision, the wolf sitting behind him, was this an omen? A heartfelt story of a young teen who would not give up until she learned the truth behind her brother’s death, the reasons behind it and a family that was in disarray, disjointed and needed to understand the why’s, how comes and the rationale behind what happened that Winter of the Wolf. Strong characters each one unique and different yet each the same with their own views, their own special bond to Sam and their own way of making peace with the death of someone so young and loved. Author Martha Hunt Handler uses her real-life experiences in her life to share with readers. Based on a real life death experience that happened to a friend’s son and her work as President of the Wolf Conservation Center, she crafted and created an empathic and heartfelt story that will endear you to Bean, her family and to understanding the Innuit customs and rituals about life and death.
Fran Lewis: Just reviews