Friday, February 26, 2016
A Girl Called Wolf, Stephen Swartz
The book I am discussing today, A Girl Called Wolf, by indie author, Stephen Swartz, is a biographical fantasy, that is it is a fantasy based on the true story of Anna Good.
BUT FIRST, THE BLURB:
Ice and snow are all 12 year old Anuka knows outside the hut in Greenland where she was born. When her mama dies, Anuka struggles to survive. The harsh winter forces her to finally journey across the frozen island to the village her mama always feared. But the people of the village don’t know what to do with this girl. They try to educate and bring her into the modern world, but Anuka won't make it easy for them. She sees dangers at every turn and every day hears her fate echoing in her mama’s voice. Her mama gave her that name for a reason. She is A GIRL CALLED WOLF who searches for the place where she belongs, a destination always just out of reach, on a path she will always make her own.
In the opening chapters, Swartz’s Greenland has a harsh, ethereal quality. The environment is shown as unearthly, beautiful, and deadly, as are the people. The story of his protagonist Anuka (later called Anna) and her early life stands out sharply against the nearly cinematic backdrop, yet Swartz shows it with an economy of words.
Anuka's life is very hard, and she knows it in some small way. But it is all she knows, and she loves her mother, her life, and the abusive man who comes in and out of her life with some regularity.
Later, when Anuka is forcibly taken to civilization, that village and its poverty, as compared to her prior life, is clear in the reader’s head. It is seen through her eyes, although the villagers themselves don’t see themselves as poor in comparison–just the opposite. Swartz manages to get that across without overstating it: it simply is. Anna's life, and her discovery of who she is and her place in the world is a gripping story.
Conveying the mood of a piece and evoking a real sense of place is where artistry and skill on the part of the author comes into play. A book can be a simple recounting of events, or it can be an immersive experience. Swartz makes this a beautiful, harsh, immersive experience.