On the eleventh day of Christmas, we encourage you to get in the winter spirit with a wintery book

wolvesThe Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney
Simon & Schuster, July 10th, 2007 (Historical Mystery / Confronting the Wilderness)

My rating: Outstanding adventure!

Jaclyn might not agree with me, but I find a certain majesty and beauty in winter. Sometimes, though, I need a little bit of help to appreciate all this season has to offer.

I borrowed The Tenderness of Wolves from the library as a “winter read,” one that would help me get through the snowy wintery February doldrums.

I did not expect it to be one of my favorite books that year. This book is absolutely mesmerizing.

The main narrator (first-person), is a middle-aged adoptive mother of a troubled teenage boy. Other narrators (third-person) include a young, new Company (Hudson Bay) agent, the local magistrate, the boy himself, the clever daughter of the local magistrate, a dapper sexagenarian in search of a mysterious bone tablet, and a young Norwegian widow, who does not fit into the religious community in which she finds herself. All the narrators are compelling characters, but even non-narrating characters are compelling. Each has their own past, often troubled, and some which intertwine.

The story opens when the main narrator, Mrs. Ross, finds the body of one of her neighbors, the only French man in the town of Caulfield near Georgian Bay, in 1866.

The small town on the edge of the wilderness is upset by recent murder of the French trapper, which drags into the minds of the town’s inhabitants the old mystery about two young girls who had gone missing before. Mrs. Ross is determined to find her son who disappeared (suspiciously) shortly before she discovers the body.

I don’t want to give anything away, since the weave of the subplots into a vivid tapestry of life in the Canadian wilderness in the late 19th century would be spoiled. I will say there are more than enough journeys into the bush to keep an adventure fan more than satisfied.

The scenery is written so evocatively I felt I could reach out and touch the footprints in the snow, see the unending forest. The characters are so real I felt I’d known them all my life. The story just jumps off the page.

The pace and tone of the book have a dreamy, soft, unhurried quality about them, but there are definite moments of suspense. These qualities go especially well with a mug of tea or hot chocolate, a cozy spot, and a warm blanket. It is just the right pace for a quiet, snowy day.

This book is a masterpiece of historical mystery fiction, and might just inspire a renewed appreciation for winter, cold weather, and snow. Not to mention modern heating, running water, hot beverages, and wool throws.

Bonus! She’s a Scottish author.

Do you have any recommendations for books that will inspire you to appreciate winter all over again? What about other modern Scottish authors?

Happy holidays from the Book Adventurers! We hope this is the best winter yet.

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