Book Review: Wolfe Island by Lucy Treloar

This is a masterful book delivering long after the end.

Kitty Hawke lives alone with her wolfdog on Wolfe Island somewhere in the American region of Chesapeake Bay. All other inhabitants have fled due to rising sea levels. Kitty is a sculptor whose work is driven by what she finds on the island, a place that has strong links to her mother and grandmother.

Estranged from her own family, Kitty is surprised one day by a visit from her granddaughter, teenage Cat, and refugee friends Luis and his seven-year-old sister Alejandra. Despite their intrusion, Kitty becomes involved in the plight of Luis and Alejandra who are both clearly traumatised. We don’t know the details of their lives before but with some snippets of information about their parents we get enough of an idea and it’s not pretty. The world beyond the island is bleak where people smugglers known as runners take on refugees like Luis and Alejandra who are fleeing persecution from their own country somewhere in the South.

We learn about Kitty’s past but she’s also forced to confront the ugly present day of a world where no-one can be trusted when she leaves the island to help Cat get Luis and Alejandra to the safety of the North during the winter. It’s a difficult journey for them all and Kitty carries the responsibility of their safety on her shoulders.

Treloar writes with confidence, her language beautiful and rich with colour. It reminded me a little of The Road by Cormac McCarthy. Written in first-person narrative from Kitty’s point of view, we are with her the whole way feeling her desolation, her hope, her drive to do what it takes to get those kids to safety. It’s as much about the journey Kitty takes in her mind as it is on the road.

The seasons and the landscape are beautifully described and the tension builds slowly. A world with vigilantes who decide whether people look like they should belong or not is terrifyingly close to the bone in today’s world. There’s a lot to love and think about in this book. Every page is masterful and compels you not to put it down.

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