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Once There Were Wolves by Charlotte McConaghy
Contemporary fiction

Once There Were Wolves

by Charlotte McConaghy

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Quick take

A woman journeys to Scotland determined to save the wilderness—but tragedy bites just as her new life starts to settle.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Psychological

    Psychological

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_ForbiddenLove

    Forbidden love

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Whodunit

    Whodunit

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Rugged

    Rugged

Synopsis

Inti Flynn arrives in Scotland with her twin sister, Aggie, to lead a team of biologists tasked with reintroducing fourteen gray wolves into the remote Highlands. She hopes to heal not only the dying landscape, but Aggie, too, unmade by the terrible secrets that drove the sisters out of Alaska.

Inti is not the woman she once was, either, changed by the harm she’s witnessed—inflicted by humans on both the wild and each other. Yet as the wolves surprise everyone by thriving, Inti begins to let her guard down, even opening herself up to the possibility of love. But when a farmer is found dead, Inti knows where the town will lay blame. Unable to accept her wolves could be responsible, Inti makes a reckless decision to protect them. But if the wolves didn’t make the kill, then who did? And what will Inti do when the man she is falling for seems to be the prime suspect?

Propulsive and spell-binding, Charlotte McConaghy's Once There Were Wolves is the unforgettable story of a woman desperate to save the creatures she loves—if she isn’t consumed by a wild that was once her refuge.

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Content warning

This book contains plot points about and depictions of violence and sexual assault.

Free sample

Get an early look from the first pages of Once There Were Wolves.
Once There Were Wolves

1

When we were eight, Dad cut me open from throat to stomach.

In a forest in the wilds of British Columbia sat his workshop, dusty and reeking of blood. He had skins hanging to dry and they brushed our foreheads as we crept through them. I shivered, even then, while Aggie grinned devilishly ahead of me, bolder than me by far. After summers spent wishing to know what happened in this shed I was suddenly desperate to be gone from it.

He’d caught a rabbit and though he’d let us stalk the woods with him he’d never shown us the act of killing.

Aggie was eager, and in her haste she kicked a brine barrel, her foot making a deep echoing thud, one I felt on my foot, too. Dad looked up and sighed. “You really want to see?”

Aggie nodded.

“Are you prepared for it?”

Another nod.

I could see the furry rabbit and all the blades. It wasn’t moving; dead already.

“Come on over then.”

We went to either side of him, our noses peeking over his workbench. From here I could see all the fine colors of its pelt, russet browns and dusky oranges and warm creams and grays and whites and blacks. A kaleidoscope of color, all designed, I supposed, to make it invisible and prevent this exact fate. Poor rabbit.

“Do you understand why I’m doing this?” Dad asked us.

We both nodded. “Subsistence living,” Aggie said.

“Which means? Inti?”

“We hunt only what we need and we give back to the ecosystem, we grow food, too, we live as self-sufficiently as we can,” I said.

“That’s right. So we pay our respects to this creature and thank it for sustaining us.”

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Why I love it

It's so rewarding to encounter a book that not only propels you forward with plot—I need to find out what happens!—but simultaneously makes you feel for and think deeply about the lives on the page. Charlotte McConaghy has done just that in this evocative novel that asks big questions about our responsibility to others, not only the people around us, but the animals and nature with which we share this earth.

The story is narrated by Inti Flynn, a biologist leading a project to rewild Scotland's Cairngorms National Park with wolves. She arrives, with her twin sister Aggie, to find the locals not entirely welcoming to the project's endeavor. Just as things are starting to look up for the wolves and for Inti, conflicts deepen both within the town and within Inti herself. A farmer turns up dead in the woods and it's unclear who or what is to blame. Inti wants nothing more than for the wolves to survive and thrive, but traumas from her and Aggie's past continue to haunt them. Who can she trust? Who needs her protection? How can she ensure not only her own safety, but the safety of those she loves?

McConaghy writes landscapes—both external and internal—beautifully. When I finished this book, I felt more alert and awake to the world around me. That's the kind of reading experience I think we all need more of.

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Member ratings (21,849)

  • Alexis A.

    Birmingham, AL

    Both Hauntingly beautiful and heart wrenching, this is definitely going to be a standout of the year for me. It’s about preserving nature, pain, hurt & finding the wildness in us. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️\5

  • Jenifer C.

    Lisbon, OH

    Loved! There was such a reasonable explanation that gave an “oh my goodness” and “woah” factor to the end. I was so into the characters that I couldn’t put it down and felt so many emotions throughout

  • Suzanne M.

    Saugatuck, MI

    I didn’t think it was possible for a thriller to be beautiful. I loved the magical realism feel the wolves and some of the characters brought to the storyline. It’s been awhile I truly “❤️” a book.

  • Annette M.

    Springfield, PA

    My first of McConaghy’s stories and I truly enjoyed it. It’s been awhile since I had that pull to read a story w/o stopping…a page turner with heart, love and soul…a must read. Migrations on my TBR!

  • Rebecca C.

    Wichita Falls, TX

    10/10!! The narrative from instinctual to “civilized” thinking, or primal to more “educated” thoughts/actions are in all of us! We are all animals capable of anything, and it depicts that beautifully!

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