Winter of the Wolf by Martha Hunt Handler

Rating: 5 out of 5.

What I Loved:

Wow! Winter of the Wolf was such an emotional read. I get so invested in a story that has a mystery element but also draws me in emotionally. It was beautiful to read!

My Synopsis:

Sam Hanes has died from suicide by hanging in his bedroom. His sister, Bean, is absolutely distraught over losing him. Everyone around her is saying that Sam committed suicide. As Bean relives the event through her memories, she just can’t believe that he would do that. She knows her brother in a way that others do not and is determined to uncover what really happened to him.

While Bean is working to figure out what has actually happened to her brother, she is also learning to manage her own grief as well as the grief of her family. Winter of the Wolf blends mystery, grief management, forgiveness, and spirituality, to create a beautiful, touching story.

How I Felt:

I just need to give a quick shout out to this fabulous cover! It caught my attention immediately and I knew I wanted to read it!

This story was so emotional. It really provides a glimpse into grief and explores how people manage it. I was blown away by Martha Hunt Handler’s writing style and ability. Her descriptions created vivid images of the scenes I was reading about. I felt drawn into the story where I would forget I was reading, losing all sense of my surroundings, and it was as if I was in the book. It’s the best experience possible when reading.

The characters were so incredibly real. Bean, the main character, shared her emotion and feelings in a way that made her feel like my friend, not just a character in a book. She was open about her thoughts, concerns, regrets, and insecurities and was the perfect character to convey this story. I felt like the way her feelings were written made them relatable in my own life, and I appreciated that.

Overall, this was a story that covered friendship and family, emotion, spirituality, and grief. It was written and edited well, and I highly recommend it!

Content Warnings:

Discussion of suicide, loss of a child or sibling, mental health, bullying, autoerotic asphyxiation.

To Read or Not To Read:

I would recommend Winter of the Wolf for readers of all ages that enjoy an emotional story with a mystery to it!

Where to Find This Book:

Winter of the Wolf by Martha Hunt Handler is available at these sites.

Bookshop | Amazon Kindle | Amazon | Goodreads

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A tragic mystery blending sleuthing and spirituality

​An exploration in grief, suicide, spiritualism, and Inuit culture, Winter of the Wolf follows Bean, an empathic and spiritually evolved fifteen-year-old, who is determined to unravel the mystery of her brother Sam’s death. Though all evidence points to a suicide, her heart and intuition compel her to dig deeper. With help from her friend Julie, they retrace Sam’s steps, delve into his Inuit beliefs, and reconnect with their spiritual beliefs to uncover clues beyond material understanding. 

Both tragic and heartwarming, this twisting novel draws you into Bean’s world as she struggles with grief, navigates high school dramas, and learns to open her heart in order to see the true nature of the people around her. Winter of the Wolf is about seeking the truth—no matter how painful—in order to see the full picture.

In this novel, environmentalist and award-winning author, Martha Handler, brings together two important pieces of her life—the death of her best friend’s son and her work as president of the Wolf Conservation Center—to tell an empathetic and powerful story with undeniable messages.

Just the Facts:

Winter of the Wolf by Martha Hunt Handler
Genre: YA Mystery
Page Count: 264 pages
Publisher: Greenleaf Book Group Press
Pub Date: July 7, 2020

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I had the chance to interview Martha Hunt Handler! Check out our conversation!

Q: Wolves play such a big role in this book. What got you so interested in them specifically?
A: I’m so glad you asked! Wolves have appeared in my dreams from as far back as I can remember. With few exceptions, it was a black female wolf who appeared. Though the wolf didn’t speak, we communicated. She was like a very wise grandmother, always leading me somewhere or showing me something that I would otherwise have missed. So, naturally, I was very interested in wolves and read every book I could find on them. But I’d never actually seen a wolf until I moved to South Salem, New York in 1996 with my husband and four children. Almost as soon as we’d settled into our home, I started to hear wolves howling nearly every evening. I thought I was going mad because wolves had been absent from state since they were hunted and poisoned to extinction in the late 1800s. But, thankfully, my family confirmed that they were also hearing them. Eventually, I ventured into the woods to investigate and found two adult wolves near a trailer in a large enclosure. When I knocked on the door, the future founder of the Wolf Conservation Center (nywolf.org), Hélène Grimaud, greeted me. When she told me about her plans for the Center, which included public education, wolf advocacy and participation in the survival plans for the two most critically endangered wolf species (red wolves and Mexican grey wolves), I enthusiastically jumped on board (literally and figuratively). It felt like a dream come true to help a creature that had helped me for so many years.

Q: How did you decide on the title of this book, Winter of the Wolf?
A: My working title was “The Transitory Nature of Souls.” However, whenever I’d say that to someone, they looked quite confused! Later, when I decided to donate my author proceeds to the Wolf Conservation Center, I added a wolf to the story. Hoping others were as intrigued by wolves as I am, I thought the title and cover should include a wolf. But finding a title that my publisher and I could agree on proved quite challenging! We went back and forth on various ideas for one very long week but finally settled on this title. We hope it conveys a sense there will be a dark season, which will be followed by light.

Q: There is a lot of Inuit information in this story. What type of research did you do for this?
A: Like my protagonist, Bean, I watched Nanook of the North in second grade. I subsequently became obsessed not only by Inuit but by all native people and their associated myths and practices, and so I began to read every book I could find on these cultures. I found it extraordinary that they all had such similar creation myths. They all felt a deep connection to everything around them, not only the plants and animals but also the seas and skies. But sadly, we seemed to have largely forgotten this. I hope that Winter of the Wolf will encourage readers to remember and tap back into this universal wisdom that our ancestors felt so deeply.

Q: Who was your favorite character to write about?
A: Bean is my favorite character because she is a fictionalized and idealized version of myself at fifteen. From a very young age, I distinctly remember being able to hear nature speaking to me. But when I shared this, even with trusted friends, they didn’t believe me, or, worse yet, demeaned and ridiculed me. So, I began to doubt myself, which resulted in these voices growing ever fainter. In creating Bean, I was able to go back and see what might have happened if I’d believed in myself and my gifts from an early age. Much of my motivation in writing this novel was to encourage young adults to trust their instincts and intuition. We know, we just have to believe in our knowing.

Q: What are your favorite genres as a reader?
A: One of my quarantine activities was tackling the piles of books scattered all over my library. I decided to organize them by genre. So, I can tell you, unequivocally, that my tastes are all over the place! I love non-fiction books about wolves, native cultures, and spirituality. I also love reading historical fiction. After reading one Philippa Gregory novel, I had to read them all. Same for Sylvia Plath, though that was a dark road to go down! Presently, my extended family, which includes 21 of us ranging in age from 11 years old to 81 years young, are participating in a Covid-19 Zoom book club, and we’re tackling racism. So far, we’ve read Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds and Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes. Both are eye-opening, thought-provoking, and highly educational, and they’ve led to some intense discussions. We’re enjoying the group so much we’ve decided to keep going after quarantine ends.

Q: What’s the next writing project that you are working on?
A: For years I’ve collected old etiquette books, and I intend to write a humorous book about how far we’ve come from those days when your every move was dictated by precise rules. I’d also consider writing a sequel to Winter of the Wolf. I’m curious to know how Bean fares in the next decade and whether or not she and Skip become a couple.

Q: What advice would you give to an aspiring author?
A: If you feel that your role in this lifetime is to be a writer, believe in yourself, show up, keep writing, and don’t let others discourage you. I wrote and illustrated my first novel at seven. When I showed it to my father and proudly stated that I planned to be a writer when I grew up, he immediately shot me down, saying writers couldn’t support themselves. It took me decades to get his words out of my head and to believe I could and should be a writer.

Q: If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?
A: Though my friends think I’m insane, I generally love cold climates more than warm ones. Antarctica is probably my favorite place on the planet, followed closely by the Arctic. I find the stark landscape and solitude to be profoundly and spiritually moving. But, I also dream of being an explorer and living and learning from people who haven’t had much contact with outsiders. Margaret Mead is a hero of mine.

I see magic at work everywhere around me. I don’t believe in coincidences, only co-incidents: things that you hear, see or feel that help remind your soul of its path. I appreciate the phrase, “Grow or Wilt.” I think that’s what we’re all here for – to continually expand our hearts and minds as we navigate our way through the plethora of experiences we are presented with for this purpose. 

Raised in Northern Illinois, I began to see wolves in my dreams from a very early age. Always a nature girl, I spent my free time either swimming in a lake near my house or roaming around in the Enchanted Forrest near my home. It was here I first heard nature speaking to me; asking for my help while promising guidance in this endeavor. After earning a degree in environmental conservation at UC Boulder, I worked as an environmental consultant in D.C., San Francisco and Los Angeles.    

While in a bar in Cozumel, Mexico I magically (okay, tequila shots were involved) met the love of my life, Rich. Admittedly, this was not my initial reaction but thanks to Rich’s patience and unrelenting persistence, literally from one side of the country to the other, I eventually came around! I’m sometimes stubborn. What can I say? I’m definitely a work in progress. 

We had four kids in five years and in my rare moments of solitude; I began to write creative pieces, which I found immensely soul fulfilling. When our family moved to New York in 1996, another serendipitous/magical moment occurred when I heard wolves howling. Curious, since I’d known they’d been wiped out of New York state more than 100 years prior, I ventured into the woods behind our house and found three grey wolves in a large enclosure. I soon learned that these wolves were to be the initial ambassadors for the Wolf Conservation Center (nywolf.org), a non-profit that was being formed. I immediately jumped on board, literally (I’m now Board President), to help them fulfill their mission of education and as a breeding and pre-release facility for the two most critically endangered wolf species in North America. 

With my adult children now grown and flown, I’m able to focus on pursing those passions that most pull my heartstrings: wolves and writing. I spend weekdays in Tribeca, New York and weekends near the wolves in South Salem, New York.  My first novel, “Winter of the Wolf,” will be published by Greenleaf in July, 2020. 

Author information taken from Author Website.

I was provided an advanced reader’s copy of this book for free. I am leaving my review voluntarily.

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