Although The Hour of the Wolf deals with two suicide attempts, the story is surprisingly upbeat. By the end of the novel, Jake has regained his self-esteem because he was able to finish the Iditarod. Prior to the start of the race, Jake was unable to tell his father that he had entered. At the conclusion of the race, however, Jake has gained self-assurance. Now he can admit that he does not plan to return to Minnesota, enter college, and take a position in his father’s law firm. Instead, Jake plans to stay in Alaska, attend the University of Anchorage to earn a degree in veterinary medicine, and possibly to enter the Iditarod next year.
Meanwhile, his father has gained enough respect for Jake that he can accept Jake’s decision. In addition, he says that losing a recent case to a top-notch prosecutor has convinced him to cut down on his own legal work so that he can spend more time with Jake in the future than he has in the past. Even Danny’s suicide is given a positive aspect through the use of the “spirit wolf” that shadows Jake during the final leg of the Iditarod, which Jake comes to believe is the spirit of Danny.
The individual-versus-nature theme is particularly well handled in this novel. Calvert’s vivid depiction of the severe weather and physical exertion of the Iditarod enables readers to understand why even finishing last in the race is noteworthy. In fact, one of the subthemes of the novel focuses on the fact...
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Patricia Calvert’s first young adult novel, The Snowbird (1980), was selected by the American Library Association as a Best Book for 1980. Since that time, she has continued to earn praise from critics and has won most of the awards available to young adult authors. Calvert’s protagonists, like Jake Matthiesen, are usually physically and/or socially isolated individuals who learn to take responsibility for their lives, accept themselves, and relate to other people.
Although there is no evidence that they have influenced each other directly, Calvert and author Gary Paulsen share a high regard for sled dogs and for the value of testing oneself under extreme conditions such as the Iditarod Dog Sled Race. Readers who like The Hour of the Wolf will probably also enjoy Paulsen’s novel Dogsong (1985) and his nonfiction accounts of dogsledding, Winterdance: The Fine Madness of Running the Iditarod (1994) and Woodsong (1991).