Finished June 17
The Wilding by Benjamin Percy
This novel is about a man, his relationships with his father, his wife, and his son. But it is also a tale of the wild nature in all of us. There are three main speakers: Justin, a schoolteacher who has never lived up to his father's expectations of male behaviour; Karen, Justin's wife, who has largely withdrawn from their marriage after the stillborn death of their second child years before; and Brian, a young man, suffering both physically and mentally from injuries received in Iraq.
Justin works hard at his job, but has left the house repairs slide lately due to his heavy workload. He still loves Karen strongly, but has almost stopped trying to connect with her after repeated rejections. His father is a man's man, and wants to take Justin and his sixth-grade son Graham on a weekend hunting trip at the spot he and Justin go to every year, as the area is slated for development. This will be Graham's first hunting trip.
Karen is obsessed with exercise, running daily and cooking only healthy, organic food she has carefully researched and bought. She is also obsessed with the obverse, looking up ugly diseases and disgusting illnesses on the internet to make herself feel better. She has no respect for Justin, but there seems to be little rational reason for her feelings toward him. Having lost one child, she is protective of Graham, and worried about the influence of Justin's father Paul.
Brian suffered a head injury in Iraq when a bomb sent off near the vehicle he was in, and has bad headaches and unexpected mood changes as a result. He lives alone, operating the business he inherited from his father, and is obsessed with the idea of becoming a wild animal.
The hunting trip is a opportunity for Paul to orient Graham to hunting, and yet Justin shows himself to be comfortable in this environment, a man who knows how to do things and worries about things appropriately.
When the presence of a bear becomes apparent, Justin must decide how much he is willing to risk for his family, and whether he can overcome his father's authority to protect Graham.
Karen also finds herself put in the position to make a choice that will affect her family, and she finds herself strangely pliant in the face of another's wishes.
Brian is drawn to Karen after meeting her through work, and yet also drawn to the wildness in himself. He will be forced to make a choice as well.
I liked the immediacy of nature in this book, from the two instances with the owls to the setting of the hunting camp and the recurring bear. The native story about nature and its revenge was also an interesting element.