The Wolf Hour…
About the Book:
A gripping thriller set in Africa about a young aid worker in danger and the lengths to which her family will go to save her. Edge-of-your-seat suspense combines with a compelling family drama in this story of power, greed and salvation.
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 proved itself an incredibly thought provoking read, although in the end, not solely for the reasons I had expected. I was anticipating a bit of tough read, in terms of digging deep into a topic such as child soldiers – and it was – but I was not expecting to be affected by the family drama aspect as much. The perspective of Tessa’s parents really reached in and squeezed my heart and they quickly became my favourite characters. Overall though, I found myself racing through The Wolf Hour. It had an ‘unputdownable’ quality that made it nearly impossible to resist reading one more chapter of.
There were so many profound moments within this novel, but none more so than this observation from Tessa on the spread of children’s ages in Uganda:
‘The thing that struck her most was how young they all were. The older ones – from the age of about ten onwards – were missing. Their absence, Tessa thought, was like the last scene in the tale of The Pied Piper when the town’s children disappeared through a door in the mountainside.’
It’s truly horrifying, to contemplate this. Sarah diligently explores this issue, and there are certainly some tough moments where we as readers get to fully realise the extent of what being kidnapped and indoctrinated as a child soldier actually means. This novel is written so well, because Tessa is making these observations alongside us:
‘He began to knead the flesh on his forearm, pinching the skin and twisting it in tight bunches. Tessa reached across and rested the weight of her hand on his, something her mother might have done. He stopped, and quickly pulled away from her. She had urged him to tell her his story – and it was shocking. Beyond belief, she thought; beyond understanding. Her face burnt and a surge of anguish tore at her chest. She felt a tremendous responsibility which she was ill-equipped to handle; he had lived with different rules and there was little place for the mild, kind psychology she espoused. The knowledge behind his eyes terrified her.’
While this is harrowing material, it is by no means objectified. The truth is presented with authenticity but tempered with sensitivity. It gives you a lot to think about, not least of how lucky some children in the world are in comparison to others.
For me, I was able to intimately relate to Tessa’s parents. My own children are not adults yet, still teenagers, but that loss of control over your children’s lives really got to me. They were still parents; the fact that Stephen and Tessa were adults didn’t change this. The way they cared for them and worried about, and fretted over the life choices their children were making; what age your children are doesn’t diminish this, particularly if they are in trouble, which in this case, both of them were. I found myself angry at Tessa, for her altruistic ambitions, while still being able to understand her motivation for being in and remaining in such a dangerous place.
‘They were like two people in a boat at sea, and she suddenly felt a new burden that extended to her parents – of how what happened to her could not be contained behind the facade she was working so hard to maintain. She knew she couldn’t tell them not to worry.’
The events that unfold within this novel fracture this family, and I was utterly gripped by the drama. I likened it to being in a body of water, floating along, everything calm until all of a sudden, one person is pulled under and the rest lose their equilibrium. That’s very much what happened with this family, and Tessa’s kidnapping was a catalyst for Stephen’s true lifestyle to come to the fore and further damage this already fragile family balance. There was no quick fix offered, to which I was grateful. This story is very much about keeping it real on all fronts, its impact all the more solid for it.
‘Together her parents made small objections, but there was hurt there too, and irritation. Over the last few days they had been building towards this, towards some kind of reckoning. Tessa was aware of her parents’ support and grateful for it, but she craved consolation not just for herself but for them. To find some kind of resolution.’
There is a rich atmosphere in terms of people and place running through this novel. A heady visualisation that transplants you. I’ve long been drawn to novels about Africa and this one did not disappoint. Highly recommended.
‘“This place,” Tessa said again. “But especially the people here, they’re amazing. Even after everything they’ve been through, there are those who can still forgive so much. It’s like Beatrice says: they bring relief to their tragedy. I see it sometimes in the way they talk about things other than the war. How they get on with life; their laughter, their jokes – about their shoes, or lack of them.” She gave a wry smile, then lifted her shoulders and let them fall. “It’s what drew me here in the beginning – how people cope in the aftermath of civil war.”’
Thanks is extended to Allen and Unwin for providing me with a copy of The Wolf Hour for review.
About the Author:
Sarah Myles began to write fiction after graduating in literature from Monash University, and studying at the University of Western Australia. She has trained and worked as a nurse, travelled through Europe, the Americas and Africa. She is the author of Transplanted. Currently she divides her time between writing and family, living in inner Melbourne and on the west coast of Victoria.
The Wolf Hour
Published by Allen and Unwin
Released on 29th August 2018