Lone Wolf has all the elements I would expect from Jodi Picoult, controversy, ethical conflict, and courtroom drama. Luke Warren is severely injured in a car accident and lies comatose in hospital. His estranged son returns from Thailand after a five year absence to be at his father’s bedside, to the disgust of his younger sister. Cara Warren is seventeen, too young to make medical decisions for her father and resents Edwards authority. When Edward makes the painful choice to discontinue life support, Cara accuses him of wanting to kill their father and seeks a legal order to stop him. The emotional battle will reveal the secrets of the broken family as the siblings each seek to honour their father in their own ways.
The story of Lone Wolf unfolds through alternating chapters from the perspectives of the main characters, Luke, his children Edward and Cara, ex wife Georgie and briefly, Helen, the court appointed Public Guardian.
Cara, who was also in the accident, is devastated by her fathers injuries and unable to rationally consider his medical status. Having lived with her father for the past five years she feels she should have the right to choose the path of her father’s care and with the naivete of youth is determined that life support be continued indefinitely, convinced a miracle will occur. Cara deeply resents Edward, blaming him for the break up of their parents marriage and is irrationally convinced that Edward hates Luke and wants him dead.
Edward left home at eighteen after a fight with his father, allowing his mother and sister to believe it had to do with revealing his sexuality. Luke’s motives were actually more complicated and he has kept them hidden by keeping his distance from the family. Returning home forces him to face the consequences of his estrangement.
Georgie is torn between the needs of her children, her ex husband and her new family. She wants to support both Cara and Edward but the decision they face doesn’t allow her to.
While a large part of the novel concerns the issues of the withdrawal of life support, organ donation and medical guardianship it is also about who Luke and his wolves, though Luke remains unconscious during the entire book. Luke is a wildlife biologist with an obsession for wolves. His unusual study methods including living with a wild wolves in Canada and feeding from raw carcasses with his captive pack. The information Picoult shares about the wolves is interesting and she neatly relates it to her characters but Luke’s behaviour can’t help but strike you as a little bizarre. I also cynically wonder if Picoults choice of wolves to feature in this novel comes from the commercial appeal of their paranormal counterparts, particularly as Lone Wolf has a YA slant.
For me, there was nothing terribly bad about Lone Wolf but neither was there anything remarkable. I felt at times that Picoult favoured melodrama over real passion, the issues seemed to be little more than a surface debate and the plot was too contrived. Unfortunately the characters also largely left me cold. I was sympathetic, but Cara acted half her age and Georgie just sort of flapped around ineffectually. Of the three I liked Edward the most but there were a few incidents he was involved in that didn’t work for me as plot points.
I think fans of Picoult will be left distinctly underwhelmed by Lone Wolf but its an accessible title for a younger audience and a reasonably quick read as the typeset is quite large. The marketing drive is certainly quite extensive so I would expect that despite my opinion Lone Wolf will quickly appear on the bestseller lists.