American Wolf: A True Story of Survival and Obsession in the West
(I received this book through Blogging for Books in exchange for a fair and honest review.)
Author: Nate Blakeslee
Publisher: Random House, LLC
Rating: FIVE PAWS
**Review Contains Spoilers**
The enthralling story of the rise and reign of O-Six, the celebrated Yellowstone wolf, and the people who loved or feared her . Before men ruled the Earth, there were wolves. Once abundant in North America, these majestic creatures were hunted to near extinction by the 1920s. But in recent decades, conservationists have brought wolves back to the Rockies, igniting a battle over the very soul of the West. With novelistic detail, Nate Blakeslee tells the gripping story of one of these wolves, a charismatic alpha female named O-Six for the year of her birth. Uncommonly powerful, with gray fur and faint black ovals around each eye, O-Six is a kind and merciful leader, a fiercely intelligent fighter, and a doting mother. She is beloved by wolf watchers, particularly Yellowstone park ranger Rick McIntyre, and becomes something of a social media star, with followers around the world. But as she raises her pups and protects her pack, O-Six is challenged on all fronts: by hunters, who compete with wolves for the elk they both prize; by cattle ranchers who are losing livestock and have the ear of politicians; and by other Yellowstone wolves who are vying for control of the park's stunningly beautiful Lamar Valley. These forces collide in American Wolf, a riveting multi-generational saga of hardship and triumph that tells a larger story about the clash of values in the West--between those fighting for a vanishing way of life and those committed to restoring one of the country's most iconic landscapes.
Let me preface this by saying I almost never read non-fiction. Part of my love of reading relies heavily on getting lost in a world of fantasy and wonder. I also love animals, so when I was asked to review this book, I took a chance and said yes.
Nate Bakeslee writes non-fiction like it is fiction. He wove a story about love, life, death, and the harshness of the world around us all while maintaining the integrity of the information. While the book was poignent and touching, it was also realistic. When the first wolf died, I was wrecked. But with life, you must have death. It is the natural order of things, and this was not a book that glossed over the more difficult themes. At times it payed significant attention to the politics involved, but it was a necessary evil and I never felt that an agenda or party was being pushed upon me.
Now to the real star of the story: the wolves. From now until forever, when I close my eyes and think of the wolves of Yellowstone, I will forever see O-Six and her pack. O-Six was the epitome of an alpha wolf, strong, resilient, and willing to do anything to protect what was hers. I will never understand why people will kill animals for sport, it just isn't in my nature. To be angry at an animal for being...well, and animal is something that just doesn't make sense in my brain. Whether it is envy, fear, or just wanting to be the apex predator in our habitat, we as a species forget to stop and look at the world around us for what it is.
An amazing thing happened as I was reading this book; I forgot they were talking about wolves. I didn't necessarily think of them as people, but it became less about the actual animal and more about the story they had to tell, the message they had to send.
Overall this was one of the most well written books I have ever had the pleasure of reading. It humbled me, it made me smile, it made me laugh. But most of all, it made me cry. It hit me right in the heart. If you have the opportunity, please pick up this book and let it take you away, into a world most of us never think about.
O-Six, sweet wolf, you are forever wild and free.