Lone Wolf by Jodi Picoult
Atria, 2012/Simon & Schuster, Inc.
Reviewer: Sheri de Grom
Jodi Picoult’s nineteenth novel, Lone Wolf, presents the reader with many moral choices. Having read her past 18 novels, I’ve come to expect complex characters with lots of emotional baggage. I’m aware I probably won’t like some of the characters and that’s okay.
Ms. Picoult’s impeccable research provides teachable moments throughout each of her novels.
Lone Wolf is packed with information about every aspect of wolves in the wild and what happens when they are brought into captivity. I grew up on a cattle ranch with a different perspective of wolves. I thought they would attack calves even when they weren’t hungry. Not so, says Ms. Picoult.
I remind myself; Lone Wolf is fiction and did a little research of my own. I learned what I already knew. Ms. Picoult didn’t alter a thing. As with all truths she sets before her readers, each element gives us something with which to grapple.
The wolves aren’t the only controversial subject in Lone Wolf: the father leaves his young family and goes into the wild to live with a pack of wolves for two years. At age fifteen, Edward, Luke’s son, is taking care of all household responsibilities, including finances.
Maybe the most egregious act against the young son is Luke asking Edward to sign a medical power of attorney that would make him, Edward, legally responsible for medical decisions should anything happen to him while he’s gone. Luke asks his wife, Georgie, first but she’s too upset about him leaving the family to even consider such a thing.
The father returns from living with the wolves, but hasn’t changed as a husband and father. If anything, he’s more distant than ever. Edward is now eighteen and recognizes he cannot keep his father’s secrets. He leaves home without telling anyone where he’s going and becomes the prodigal son with secrets.
Cara, his sister, is a more faithful child but blames Edward for her parent’s divorce and everything else that goes wrong.
Georgie, Luke’s ex-wife, is now married to Joe Ng and the mother of five year old twins. Pg.18[“There are times that I cannot believe how lucky I am, to be married to this man. Sometimes I think it’s because I deserve it, after all those years of living with Luke. But sometimes-like-now-I’m sure there’s still a price to pay.]
Joe Ng, Georgie’s new husband, would like Luke, the former husband, to just disappear.
The novel opens as Edward returns home at his mother’s request as Cara is three months shy of eighteen and cannot legally make medical decisions for her father, now in a vegetative state from a vehicle accident.
Determining if the father should be removed from life support is the elephant in the room. The brother and sister differ in their opinion.
Cara continues to advocate for life support for her father. Further surgeries will not help and the doctors speak to her about what her father would want for quality of life.
Pg.154[That night, I tell my mother that Cara and I have talked, that she doesn’t want to deal with this nightmare anymore, and I don’t want her to have to. I tell my mother that I’ve made the decision to let Dad die.]
The life support is scheduled to be disconnected and the hospital attorney advises everyone that Cara must speak for herself. Edward cannot speak for her and the procedure is stopped.
The story changes when Edward says, . . . Pg.167[“I’m sorry,” I say out loud—to my father, my sister, myself—and I yank the plug of the ventilator from its socket.] . . .
The ventilator is plugged back in immediately but charges are brought against Edward.
Cara takes matters into her own hands and lies her way into the county attorney’s office to insure charges against her brother will be sought. Who cares if she tells a little fib?
The county attorney reminds Cara on the way to court that the only way to get a murder charge to stick is that it must meet three criteria: malice, premeditation, and intent to kill. He is firm in telling her that she has to prove all three beyond a reasonable doubt.
Cara assures the attorney she’ll do whatever she has to do to keep her father alive.
The story turns. The reader knows that Cara made up enough information to have Edward indicted but Edward and his stepfather, Joe, do not.
This chapter becomes my favorite. I like the treatment of Joe’s voice and it fills him out as a character and member of an otherwise dysfunctional family. I identify with him. His wife asks him to help her son by a previous marriage, to a man who has done nothing but cause him trouble and his wife, heartache. He barely knows the stepson. Joe wants a trouble-free life but he inherited emotional baggage when he married Georgie and her two children.
Pg.273[It is telling, I suppose, that all of my work outfits are different shades of gray.] Helen is a public guardian.
Pg.273[The sad truth is that when it comes to making personal decisions, I find it difficult to commit, whereas when it comes to organizing the affairs of others, I am a natural.]
Helen investigates Edward and Cara to determine which one she thinks would make a better guardian for their father, or if he should have a permanent guardian appointed from outside the family. The matter will go to probate court and Helen will make her recommendation to the judge.
Joe remains Edwards’s attorney and Georgie hires an attorney for Cara for the proceeding.
Luke’s doctor takes the stand for a final time, Pg.320[Dr. Saint-Clare stands up, but before he can leave the witness stand, the judge interrupts. “Doctor,” he says. “I have one more question for you. I don’t understand a lot of the medical jargon you’ve used today, so I want to cut to the heart of the matter. If this man were your brother, what would you do?”
[The neurosurgeon sinks slowly back into his chair. He turns away from the judge, and he looks at Cara, his gaze bruised and almost tender. “I’d say goodbye,” Dr. Saint-Clare answers, “and I’d let him go.”]
Surprises wait in the almost 100 pages remaining of Lone Wolf. I had much to think about. How would I have acted in that situation and at Cara’s age? I think I know what I would do now, but thankfully, I’m not faced with that decision at this moment. That’s the reason I believe in having an advanced directive in my medical file with each physician I see on a regular basis as well as for each hospitalization or outpatient procedure.
I’ve always thought of Jodi Picoult’s novels as fiction. I’ve never thought of categorizing them as women’s fiction—they are an excellent read and great for book clubs. The depth of moral issues open for discussion is priceless.
I recommend this novel, but my all time favorite remains The Pact.