- Audio CD
- Publisher: Random House Audio; Unabridged edition (February 14, 2012)
- Listening Length: 17 hours and 19 minutes
- ISBN-10: 0307877221
- Source: Personal copy
Reuben Golding is a young reporter on assignment with the San Francisco Observer, sent to Mendocino County to write about magnificent coastal mansion of Felix Nideck, a wealthy traveler who went missing years ago. Currently residing in the home is Nideck’s niece Merchent. The family has decided to put Nideck’s home on the market and hopes Reuben’s article will spark an interest in the property. While there Reuben falls for Merchent, contemplating buying the property himself with his inheritance. His plans are changed when two men break into the mansion. Reuben is spared when a creature appears from the shadows of the mansion and obliterate the would-be burglars. Merchent, however, does not survive the attack.
Reuben awakes in the hospital, riddled with wounds. He’s heartbroken at the news of Merchent’s death and startled to learn that, in the hours preceding the break-in, Merchent signed over the house to him. The authorities are instantly suspicious; why would she do such a thing after knowing him for only a few hours? Not surprisingly, Reuben becomes one of the top suspects, especially after the 911 calls are examined. A deep, gravely voice is heard, “Murder…murder…” are the only words uttered. Reuben doesn’t remember much of the attack, only the large beast that seemingly saved his live. He shares this information with the police who instantly discount them, assuming he’s experiencing shock after the attack. The press catches wind of his claims, and soon stories about a “Man Wolf” appear in the headlines.
Reuben’s recovery is quick. Surprisingly quick, actually. With his recovery comes an evolution, of sorts. His body is stronger and larger, his hair is fuller. Additionally, his sense of hearing has increased dramatically. He can hear voices of patients on other floors, voices of those begging for their lives to end.
Always the baby of the family, affectionately referred to as Baby Boy, Little Boy, and Sunshine Boy by his family and girlfriend, Reuben’s family is shocked at his transformation, both physical and emotional. They are reluctant to allow him to accept the “gift” given to him by Merchent but Reuben doesn’t really give them a choice in the matter.
After his release, Reuben begins to notice a change in himself. His body reacts to the terrified cries of innocent victims. His body transforms into a man-beast, going on almost nightly “missions” in response to these cries for help. He retreats to the Mendocino mansion, desperate to hide from the police now on the hunt for this “Man Wolf.” It doesn’t seem to matter to them that the man wolf only harms those that are attempting to harm others; they simply won’t put up with its vigilante behavior.
Reuben, conflicted with his new ability, calls upon his brother, a priest, for help. This begins a heavy exploration of good vs. evil. Can a man of God condone this sort of behavior? Can one of God’s children be forgiven for this act? That’s not to say this aspect of the storyline is pervasive, but definitely a key element to the storyline.
Running parallel to this exploration of good vs. evil is Reuben’s acceptance of what he now refers to as a gift, the wolf gift. It is here that Rice puts a completely new spin on the werewolf myth. In her mind, this gift was passed on through heredity, only small numbers of those outside the family granted this power. Unlike other werewolf stories, these creatures don’t only come out at a full moon, but can control when they shift. Additionally, they are unable to bring harm to the innocent, only those that have the scent of evil about them.
The Wolf Gift is Anne Rice at her finest, reminiscent of the distinctive style found in her Mayfair Witch and Vampire Chronicles series. Rice doesn’t simply regurgitate old legends but recreates her own, complete with an explanation as to the genesis of the legend. Additionally, the protagonist she creates in Reuben is a sympathetic one. While he has the form of a monster, he retains the soul of a human being. He’s conflicted with his new gift and must come to understand it, appreciate it, in order to thrive in his new state.
A note on the audio production:
The Wolf Gift is narrated by Ron McLarty, known for his narration of David Baldacci’s King & Maxwell series, among others. McLarty was successful in his ability to vacillate between the voice of the Man Wolf and of Reuben himself, keeping the sensitive human side of this character while not downplaying the magnitude of the wolf’s character. He has a gravely-tone to his voice, perfectly skilled at making this transition from human to monster.
Long-time fans of Rice’s work will recognize the familiar themes of love, self-discovery, and transformation. All in all, The Wolf Gift is a refreshing reunion with the classic Anne Rice many of us have grown to know and love. Those looking for an elaborately developed, truly unique and educated spin on the werewolf legend will be handsomely rewarded after reading this novel. I particularly recommend the audio production due to the pure page count of this novel. The narrator takes this book to a completely new level, one that I do not think would be attained by simply reading the print version. Highly, highly recommended.