Two women. Two very difference careers. One small child to bring them both together.
Dr. Julia Cates is a well respected child psychiatrist, at the top of her field – until a tragic scandal involving one of her patients changes all of that. Shunned and avoided by all but the media, she finds herself lost.
Ellie is the prom queen turned police chief in a small town – the worst thing she has to worry about are the townspeople getting behind the wheel after a night at the bar. Unlucky in love, she’s trying to come to terms with the fact that she’s almost 40, single, with only her two boisterous dogs to share her life with.
All of this gets flipped on its head when a young, nameless, seemingly feral girl appears in Ellie’s town, accompanied by her pet wolf cub. She has no name, she can’t speak, and she acts more like a wolf than a child. Ellie knows that the only way to help this girl is to call in the best – and the best is Dr. Julia Cates.
I really enjoyed this novel. Kristin Hannah has a skill for writing characters with depth – they’re flawed, and human, and this novel is no different. Julia and Ellie both have something to prove – Julia needs to show the world, and herself, that she is capable of overcoming the tragedy with her previous patient, and Ellie has to prove that she is worthy of being the police chief, and that she can handle big cases without needing help from bigger forces.
The most interesting character in this novel however, is ‘Alice’, named for Alice in Wonderland – the child who has shown up, desperately in need of help. Discovering her history, told through her perspective, which is the perspective of a confused, terrified six year old, was heart wrenching. As the novel progresses, the relationship between Julia and Alice really grows, and this, to me, is the real draw of this story. It was a completely different kind of love story than we’re used to – the love between a woman longing for redemption, and the lost child who so desperately depends on her to draw her out of herself, and to save her. Reading the passages between these two characters – especially when it was from Alice’s perspective – brought a smile to my face and a tear to my eye.
Ellie and Julia are brought together, striving for a common goal – to find out where Alice came from, find out who her people are, and, most importantly, to keep her safe from the prying eyes of the media. They both fight for her, in different, but equally crucial ways. I loved that the protagonists in this novel were both women, and that, while yes, there were romantic subplots involved in their stories, they were not the most important parts of their stories.
There are of course other relationships that form throughout the story, and other characters who bring a lot of warmth, and sometimes humour, to the book. Kristin Hannah weaves these in so seamlessly, and so expertly, that they fit in well and don’t ever detract from the main plot – namely, Alice and her recovery.
I do have one major issue with this novel however, and it’s the reason I couldn’t give it five stars. I really dislike the way Julia (via the author, obviously) describes and references people with autism / additional needs. She refers to Alice numerous times as ‘an autistic’ or as the novel moves on, ‘not an autistic,’ – I take umbrage with referring to a person, a child, like that – I just think she could have referred to Alice (or other patients) as a child / person with autism. I also feel like her research into autism could have been more thorough – Julia at one point seems to decide that Alice isn’t autistic just because she makes eye contact with her etc. In my opinion, this aspect of the novel could have been much better, with just a few minor changes and maybe a little bit of sensitivity.
Overall, however, this is a beautiful story, and a real page turner. I read it in one sitting because I was so invested in the characters, and their lives, and when I turned the final page I was bereft and wanted to jump straight back in that small town, and spend more time getting to know each person who lived in it.
I give Wild 4 out of 5 stars.