The Work of Wolves

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Carson Fielding loves his family’s ranch. A loner who keeps apart from most people, he possesses an amazing rapport with horses and strong equine training skills. Earl Walks Alone, a Lakota Indian, shuns the drinking and partying of his high school peers. He intends to study his way off the reservation into a better future. Willi Schubert, a German exchange student, came to America to learn more about the American Indians. Far from home, he wrestles with his family’s difficult past. Ted Kills Many, another Lakota, lacks Earl’s drive and fails to understand how the teen can fight the way life is on the reservation. He drinks and lives the inevitable.

The four men are thrown together when a wealthy rancher retaliates against Carson by exacting revenge through abusing the horses Carson trained for him. The unlikely foursome try to save the horses and in doing so learn about the character of others and about themselves.

Kent Meyers’s The Work of Wolves, set in rural South Dakota, abounds with remarkable cruelty. The efforts of imperfect men to stop the abuse demonstrate the stark realities of humanity’s strengths and imperfections. They break the law and shirk cultural convention for an important cause. Striking parallels abound—from Willi’s family’s involvement in Hitler’s Germany, to the injustices of Indian life on the reservation, to the work of wolves in keeping nature balanced.

Meyers somehow injects humor into his characters’ dialogue and behavior providing timely relief from the harshness of their reality. Each man is a product of his family’s history, yet each is an individual who must make a way for himself in his own generation.