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I generally don't buy a lot of books, and the ones I read are often those that other people place into my hands and say 'give this a go' - and I usually do. It's exactly in this manner that I came across 'The Loop' by Nicholas Evans.
Described as a "an epic story of redemptive love and of modern man's struggle with the wild", the story focuses on Helen Ross, a young biologist sent to the town of 'Hope' in Montana with an important mission. Hope's wolves had been hunted to extinction over a century ago, and after a successful re-introduction, they now find themselves under threat once more from the ranchers who fear for the safety of their cattle. Ross seems to be the only protector of the threatened wolf pack, and has her work cut-out against the unusual bunch of trigger-happy characters who inhabit the somewhat backwards town in which the story is set.
While all this is going on, a variety of sub-plots unfold involving the finer details of the townsfolk's lives, from their affairs of the heart, to the way in which they deal with the so called 'bunny-huggers' (as in the case of Ross) who are sent from the big cities in order to give nature a helping hand.
Previously responsible for 'The Horse Whisperer' Nicholas Evans has an interesting and flowing writing style which is easy to understand - the range of colourful, memorable, and occasionally threatening characters which he creates are key to providing enough intregue to keep reader entertained. The Rocky Moutain settings are also wonderfully described, and as a reader, you get a real feel for the surroundings in which the narrative takes place.
On the downside, I did find myself losing the plot with regards to who was married to who, and which are the characters are related to each other - it's one of those books where you have to keep your wits about you if youre to stay on top of preceedings.
Unusually, a lot of the narrative is written from the point-of-view of the wolf, and this jumping from human to animal perspective makes for a refreshing approach and helps the reader empathise with both the ranchers mind-set alongside that of the animals which they are trying to destroy.
If there is a 'villain' to the story, it comes in the form of 'Buck Calder' the town's premium cattle rancher and a serial womaniser. It's difficult at first to form an opinion on Calder's motives, and he's a character who keeps you guessing until the very end.
Whilst not the most gripping of subject matter, The Loop represents an enjoyable read, which kept me entertained from start to finish - which is all you can ask for really. The writing style, combined with the interesting characters, means I'm going to give this one a recommendation.
You can currently purchase the paperback version of The Loop for £5.49 from Amazon.
What do we want? No wolves! How do we want them? Dead! A bittersweet love story written by the same author as The Horse Whisperer, this book stays on the same theme examining the bond between humans and animals. Set in a rural community in the Rocky mountains the story follows Helen Ross, 29, who has been dumped by her boyfriend and feels distrustful of men. The residents have a deep hatred of the wolf, and are frustrated by the law, which protects their enemies. Helen Ross has been sent to monitor and protect the wolves. Buck Calder, a masochistic rancher, makes her job more difficult. Buck is selfish throughout the novel, having affairs with numerous lovers while his loyal wife, Ruth, stands by. He has two boys, the elder, to have been to heir to the ranch, died in a car crash at a young age. Luke is the last remaining boy; he is kind and insecure following his father’s detrimental treatment of him. He has a bad stutter, a testimony to his insecurity and loves animals. On his first hunting trip with his father he refused to finish off an elk and so began his father’s hatred of him. Helen and Luke are drawn together through their mutual insecurity and abhorrence of Buck, which leads them to begin an affair. Buck feels this as a personal insult that his son is coming off better than him. The characters in the book are well thought out and three-dimensional. Exploring the human mind and relationship between animals and humans this id an amazing book. Dealing with the emotions behind love and hate. I found this book difficult to put down and it inspired thought behind what makes us, as humans, so much better than the rest of the animals world. This book is addictive.
I disagree with Biffer’s opinion on The Loop. I haven’t read The Horse Whisperer, so I don’t know if it’s as disappointing as this. A basic synopsis of the book is that a pack of wolves returns to of Hope, Montana, where a century earlier they were slaughtered by the thousands. A twenty nine year old wolf biologist called Helen Ross is sent to learn from and protect the wolves. She’s experienced personal problems with her father deciding to marry someone younger and prettier than Helen. Predictably on her arrival, she finds out what she's up against, the rancher, Buck Calder, has got the community riled up after a wolf stalked his daughter's home and killed the family dog who was protecting a child. Helen enrages him further by indulging in a dubious affair with his 18-year-old son. (Is it only me that finds that a bit sick?) In response to a comment, most people I know think it's worrying that Chris Evans and Billy Piper are now married. Isn't it just as bad the other way round? I think one of the aims of this novel is to catalogue the demise of the traditional western way of life but it is written in such a way as you are meant to sympathise with Helen. I’m sorry but it failed. Of course, the reintroduction of wolves is a noble thing but I don’t blame the reaction of the town against the “Tree Huggers” of the city. I think the biggest criticism I have of this text is the two-dimensionality of the characters. Not once did I imagine the people could be real because their opinions and responses were so clichéd. The opening scene is also unfortunately far more exciting than the closing one (which, sorry Biffer, is completely predictable.)
This is Nicholas Evans' second book and it's every bit as good as The Horse Whisperer. The main character is Helen Ross. She's a 29 year old biologist who's recovering from a love affair that didn't work out. She's sent to a ranching town called Hope in Montana, to deal with their wolf problem. The Hope ranchers have a deep hate of wolves which runs back years and years. They are not pleased to discover that the wolves which have been released in their area, under government protection, have started killing their cattle. Helen is there to try and protect the wolves and calm the residents. Her main enemy is Buck Calder who has high standing in the town; his is the best ranch with the best cattle. Unfortunately the wolves first appear on his ranch, killing the dog of his daughter. He whips the town up into a frenzy against both the wolves and Helen. Buck is a womaniser and although he tries it on with Helen is knocked back in no uncertain terms. Buck had four children, two boys and two girls. The eldest boy and the two girls bring him great pride, but the last boy, Luke, is a source of embarrassment to Buck. Luke is sensitive, loves all animals and has a terrible stutter, he is not into hunting and the cruel life of ranching. This is a bitter disappointment to Buck. To make matters worse Luke has been watching the wolves and knows exactly where they are. He joins forces with Helen to help monitor them and in doing so starts an affair with her - Luke is just 18. Buck remembers that years ago Hope had had a wolfer by the name of Lovelace. Although he had died a long time ago he still had an elderly son in the business. Buck tracks him down and brings him back to Hope with instructions to find and kill the wolves. One of the means of catching wolves is the loop, which his father invented. Its a long wire with cone shaped metal pieces at intervals along it. On these cones you place bait. It's designed to
catch wolf pups who haven't yet learnt to be cautious. They take the bait into their mouths and when they bite down it triggers hooks which attach themselves in the throat. Near the conclusion of the book Luke discovers that the loop has been used. I shan't tell you the ending as I don't want to spoil it for you. But this is definately a book that should be on your bookshelf.
Whilst protecting the wolves of Montana, biologist Helen Ross finds love with the son of her enemy.