Re-Read: The Loop (Nicholas Evans)

The Loop is a novel by Nicholas Evans. I read the German translation Im Kreis des Wolfes by Bernhard Robben.
Finished on: 5.8.2017

Hope, Montana is shaken – the wolves have returned to the woods around town, and the first cattle has been taken. Unofficial town leader Buck Calder will not have it – he just wants those wolves gone. But there are species protection laws and the local specialists send for Helen Ross, a biologist specialized in wolves, to try and figure things out. Helen is in need of a change of scenery and jumps at the chance, clashing pretty much immediately with Calder, but finding an unexpected ally in Calder’s young son Luke.

I read The Loop when I was a teenager (after having loved Evans’ The Horse Whisperer) and was very much taken with it back then. Reading it about 15 years later, it doesn’t quite hold up to my fond memories of it, but it is a decent read.

I remember when I read it the first time (I was 15 or so), sensitive, stuttering Luke was the perfect mix of vulnerability and defiance to push my buttons. Combined with wolves, it was everything I needed to fall in love with all of it. I knew that coming back to it would bear the risk of not working out quite that way anymore.

And I have to say, it didn’t. For one, what hit me harder this time was the fact that Helen is 29 years old and Luke is only 18. Being closer to Helen’s age now than to Luke’s, I really don’t know why you’d go for an 18 year old, even one who is rather (but not really) mature. Have you seen 18 year olds? They’re children, they’re not romance material for people 10 years their senior.

That being said, the way it is done here, it’s at least made sure that there is no power imbalance apart from the age factor, that Helen struggles as well with the age difference and that they make sure that it’s very consensual. It’s not ideal, but at least it isn’t so icky that I couldn’t enjoy the book.

It’s also fascinating because the romance part – the part that stayed with me the most from the first read – isn’t actually such a big part of the book. It’s much more about the wolves. The wolf parts are amazingly well-researched and at times read like a narrative non-fiction book. Your mileage may vary about how much you enjoy that – I was a little torn myself.

The characters are well-drawn, but it, too, feels a little theoretical at times. Like he researched and wrote a rather scientific personality profile and an extended character history, and then referred to those resources regularly. I would have appreciated a little less organization and a little more organic development.

Towards the end, things may get a little overly dramatic, but it fits the pathos of the story. Altogether, it was a nice read, but having re-read it now, I finally decided to sell the book and not keep it anymore – it just doesn’t resonate that much with me (anymore).

Summarizing: Okay to read, but not amazing.

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