Inti Flynn arrives in Scotland with her twin sister, Aggie, to lead a team of biologists tasked with reintroducing fourteen gray wolves into the remote Highlands. She hopes to heal not only the dying landscape, but Aggie, too.
Intense, emotional and rich with beautifully rendered prose, McConaghy’s novel is a powerful meditation on humanity, nature and the often frightening animalistic impulses lurking within us all ... Her prose never feels overwhelmed or even particularly hurried. There’s a density of meaning to her language, filling every paragraph with poignant, poetic life, and it’s clear even in the opening chapters that she’s mastered this world and these characters ... Once There Were Wolves is another triumph for a rising fiction star, offering an intensely realized world for readers to get lost in.
... [a] blazing new novel ... While McConaghy presents intelligent perspectives on the wisdom of rewilding, the book goes into deeper questions of epistemology. The understanding of how we know the things we know is under serious pressure in a world confronted by climate change and the need to adapt to the previously unthinkable. Despite evidence that we are making our world inhospitable to human life, we find ourselves still arguing over basic reality. We are confronted by the limits of language every day. And as McConaghy shows in this stunning book, the limits of language lead us to the limits of empathy.
Early on, I began to worry that McConaghy wasn’t entirely in control of her material ... Though this small rural community turns out to be steeped in brutal secrets, much of the plot and characterization seems rushed and scrappy, a vehicle for environmental messaging ... This is a heartfelt and earnest novel — in every chapter, there’s evidence of a writer straining for the cathedral cadence, that elegiac note of aching significance — but sincerity doesn’t guarantee a satisfying read.