This book is so sad. Because you know stories about animal friendships are always sad. But because of that, it was quite amazing. Let me tell you why. (Caution: photographs follow. May cause overload of cuteness or amazement. Please hold your “awws” until the end. Thank you.)
The unlikely true story of a six-year friendship between a wild, oddly gentle black wolf and the people and dogs of Juneau, Alaska. No stranger to wildlife, Nick Jans had lived in Alaska for nearly thirty years. But when one evening at twilight a lone black wolf ambled into view not far from his doorstep, Nick would finally come to know this mystical species—up close as never before.
A Wolf Called Romeo is the remarkable story of a wolf who returned again and again to interact with the people and dogs of Juneau, living on the edges of their community, engaging in an improbable, awe-inspiring interspecies dance and bringing the wild into sharp focus. For Nick it was about trying to understand Romeo, then it was about winning his trust, and ultimately it was about watching over him, for as long as he or anyone could.
Source: received for review from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (thanks, guys! 😀 )
Things I Loved
Romeo! I loved, loved, loved Romeo. Which should go without saying, but you’d be surprised as to how often a book’s main character of focal point can become an annoyance. Jans has a knack for characterization; we knew who Romeo was at the end of the story; we knew which dogs he liked to play with and which he didn’t, where he liked to roam in his free time, what time of the year he’d be around, where his favorite spots were, and his favorite people. Even though I’ve never met Romeo (though I’d love to!) it was like I was there those six years, interacting with Romeo like Jans himself did.
It was about Romeo. The book was truly about Romeo; we didn’t have a page-long explanation of Jans’s personal problems. A lot of books that are non-fiction or tell the true story of animals delve into the writer’s personal issues, instead of talking about the animal. And in a lot of these books, it is a necessary thing, but at the same time, I am reading the book for the animal, not for the person.
We have accurate research!
There are so many books with misinformation about dogs and wildlife in them, and Jans truly does his best to dispel myths about wolves. Like, did you know wolves have only attacked one person in the history of North America, and it was probably a mistake? Or that wolves are loyal to each other because they are family members, and while they have an alpha dog, the alpha dog is usually the oldest wolf? This makes me SO. HAPPY. I’ve read so many books about dogs in which the information is just wrong while it’s presented as being perfectly accurate. But it’s actually true here. 😀
Okay. Enough of that.
Romeo didn’t belong to Jans. Romeo belonged to everyone. I can’t tell you enough how much I loved the fact that Jans told the story like it belonged to all of them; it wasn’t the story of how Romeo changed just Jans’s life. It was the story of how he changed everyone in the community of Juneau’s life. We get to hear about John Hyde’s story with Romeo. We get to hear about Harry Robinson’s story with Romeo. We even get to hear the story of Harry Robinson’s dog and Romeo.
The Ending. Oh my goodness. The ending. 😥 It makes me half want to live in Juneau and half want to sit in my bed somewhere in the Lower 48 and cry.
Things I Had Problems With
A short list. A very short list.
- There was a bit too much background info. While I loved the wolf lore Jans put into the story, the background info and flashback stories sometime were a little bit long, so much so that I’d forget what was happening in the story when I got back to it.
- The cover. There were beautiful photographs in this book, but somehow, the cover just didn’t capture any of those. I would have loved to see a picture of Romeo on Mendenhall Glacier at dawn. The cover photo’s nice, but Jans has taken better ones. (They’re in the book instead of on it.)
Overall, this was a fantastic read, which is definitely worth your money and your time. Plus, if you end up not liking the book for some reason, there are all these fantastically beautiful photographs you can look at.
4/5 Wagging Tails
A Wolf Called Romeo is available to buy on Amazon for $18.94. The Glacier Wolf, also by Nick Jans, is available from his official website for $16.95. He also writes a blog about life in Juneau, Alaska.
Also, watch out for my review of The Innocent Assassins, by Pema Donyo, a suspense and romance about a secret agent gone rogue.