Title: The Wolf Hour
Author: Sarah Myles
Published: August 29th 2018
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary,
Rating: 4 stars
A gripping thriller set in Africa about a young aid worker in danger and the lengths to which her family will go to save her. Edge-of-your-seat suspense combines with a compelling family drama in this story of power, greed and salvation.
Thirty-year-old Tessa Lowell has a PhD in psychology and is working in Uganda to research the effects of PTSD and war on child soldiers. She joins a delegation travelling across the Congolese border, deep into the African bush, for peace talks with Joseph Kony, notorious leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army.?
At the camp Tessa meets thirteen-year-old Francis, already an experienced soldier and survivor of shocking violence. The talks stall, and the camp is attacked by other rebels who take Tessa. Isolated in an increasingly volatile situation, she tries to form a bond with Francis.
In Melbourne, Tessa’s parents are notified of the kidnapping, but learn there is little that government agencies can do. Desperate, they contact their son Stephen, an astute if manipulative businessman based in Cape Town. He agrees to search for his sister but has other reasons to contact the rebel forces.
As Tessa’s time runs out, her family begins to fracture. Her parents arrive in Uganda to hear awful news about what she has endured. They also learn the devastating truth about the kind of man their son has become. Only they have the power to stop a terrible injustice. But at what cost to their family?
The Wolf Hour: the time we come to face-to-face with ourselves.
Ultimately, The Wolf Hour, penned by Australian novelist Sarah Myles, is a novel about how we view ourselves, especially in a time of great stress and danger. The Wolf Hour uses a Melbourne family as vehicle to examine family relations and the pressures involved when one family member goes missing in a far away land. For the Lowell family of Melbourne, when daughter Tessa goes missing in the thick jungle terrain of the Congo region, Cape Town based sibling, Stephen Lowell must summon all the resources he can to rescue his sister. Waiting in the wings with bated breath are parents Neil and Leigh Lowell. The Wolf Hour is a mesmerising and astute thriller that has plenty to say about the state of affairs in Africa today.
At the centre of the second novel written by Sarah Myles is Tessa Lowell. Tessa is a determined, intelligent and hardworking young woman with a PhD in Psychology. Tessa’s interest in the effects of PTSD on child soldiers has resulted in a study opportunity in Africa. In the heart of the African wilds, Tessa finds herself trekking through this dangerous terrain in order to get to the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army. Tessa’s convoy are hoping to ignite peace talks with the well known leader, Joseph Kony. Things swiftly take a turn for the worse for Tessa, when she is kidnapped by rebels. Tessa is completely on her own, so she tries to form a bond with a child solider Francis and this child becomes a subject fascination for the hostage. However, Tessa’s situation becomes dire and she desperately needs to escape the rebels. Back home in Melbourne, Tessa’s family have been told of her abduction. There is little assistance available to the Lowell family to help them rescue Tessa, so they call on their son Stephen who is based in Cape Town to rescue her. But Stephen is hiding a dark secret which he may not be able to keep locked away from his family if he rescues Tessa. Things come to a head for each member of the Lowell family once Tessa’s rescue process is complete. The whole ordeal forces the Lowells to critically about themselves and face some hard truths about the decisions they have made.
I have often dreamed of a holiday to Africa, I would love to discover the wild plains of this majestic but dangerous country. Books such as The Wolf Hour help satisfy my desire for a trip to Africa, as I get to experience Africa from the comfort and safety of my armchair. The Wolf Hour represents a solid testimony to Africa, it gives the reader an essential overview of the current climate of this continent, covering Cape Town, the Congo, Uganda and surrounds. The Wolf Hour also provides the reader with an inadvertent education of Africa, its political fractions, the resistance groups at work and organisations such as the Lord’s Resistance Army. I definitely felt a gap in knowledge in this area prior to reading this book, but Sarah Myles has worked to increase my awareness of this area. This is the main advantage of The Wolf Hour.
Tessa Lowell is the central protagonist of the book and she is a character that evoked feelings of empathy, understanding and frustration at times. The author has injected a significant proportion of herself into the character of Tessa, which makes her feel more authentic, real and well rounded. With a detailed background in research on the civil war issues in Uganda, along with her studies in the psychology of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, author Sarah Myles puts herself in good standing to pen a convincing narrative. Myles is able to apply this pre existing knowledge to the characters of Tessa, Francis and many other side protagonists.
I noted in the author write up of my press release that accompanied this book that Sarah Myles has travelled extensively around Africa. These extended travel experiences have clearly shaped her novel, she injects so much life into her Africa based sequences in the novel. The prose is tinged with much clarity and as a result we receive a first hand understanding of this troubled but picturesque backdrop. The land and its people have such a commanding force in the novel, Africa could almost be considered as the centre piece of this novel, linking all aspects of the narrative together.
In terms of the narrative itself, The Wolf Hour is well written, thoroughly researched and carefully paced. It has a thriller and suspense feel, especially in the kidnapping and rescue sequences. I did feel on edge for much of the novel. The Wolf Hour also morphs into a solid character study and it casts a critical eye on a family under duress. Myles handles these aspects well. There were some unexpected moments, along with some jaw dropping revelations that definitely moved this reader. It is a little tenuous to say that I enjoyed this novel, rather, it is best to say that I appreciated what The Wolf Hour had to offer. By the close of the novel, I was somewhat satisfied by the final turn of events, but this book does feature an open ending. I believe a follow up book is in the works, which is news to my ears!
A blistering family drama, set against a troublesome backdrop, The Wolf Hour offers a genuine and eye opening study of Africa today. This is a highly relevant and well situated book that I am confident will draw in readers from all directions, especially those with a special interest in Africa.
The Wolf Hour by Sarah Myles was published on 29th August 2018 by Allen & Unwin. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of The Wolf Hour, Sarah Myles, visit here.
*Thanks extended to Allen & Unwin for providing a free copy of this book for review purposes.
The Wolf Hour is book #143 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge