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The Loop


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Fans of Evans's bestselling debut, The Horse Whisperer, may find that this issue-oriented follow-up is a case of déjà vu. Montana is again the setting, animals are crucial to the plot and a love story between dissimilar people is the heart-tugger. The bitter debate over the reintroduction of wolves into the American West provides the hook. After the book opens with the killing of a family dog by a stray wolf, the battle lines are quickly and clearly drawn. The wolf-hating cowboys are led by quintessential alpha male Buck Calder, the region's biggest rancher, bully and philanderer. Primary opposition comes from wolf biologist Helen Ross, a despised Easterner hired to keep the wolves safe from ranchers and more selective about their predation. She eventually teams up‘professionally and romantically‘with Calder's stuttering, insecure son Luke, much to his father's disgust. This underplayed romance is nicely done, as is the burgeoning revolt within the Calder household by Luke and Eleanor, Buck's surprisingly self-possessed wife. But Evans once again shows himself capable of graceless writing. As if preparing for the inevitable casting call, detailed character studies occupy large portions of the initial 100 pages, preempting later, subtler disclosures. His passages on wolf behavior read like mediocre nature film scripts. The novel is more a work of ideology than imagination. Among its overt messages: man is out of sync with nature; the New West is full of lonely, emotionally scarred people licking their wounds; and wolves make better alpha males than humans do. Literary Guild and Doubleday Book Club main selection; author tour. (Sept.)

In his second novel, Evans returns to Montana, the scene of his best-selling The Horse Whisperer (LJ 7/95), with a tale of conflict and love. The government's decision to introduce Canadian wolves back into the western United States disgusts powerful rancher Buck Calder, but his anger knows no bounds when a wolf wanders onto his daughter's farm and kills the family's dog. This incident, plus a series of cattle killings that Calder attributes to roving bands of wolves, leads him and his fellow ranchers to bring in a wolf killer‘a man who uses the loop (a particularly inhumane method of eradicating the wolf population). Meanwhile, the government sends Helen, a beautiful young biologist, to Montana to monitor the wolves. She comes into direct conflict with Calder but wins the admiration and love of his son, Luke. This overwritten novel is about 150 pages too long. Do we really need to know that Helen's mother has a dynamite sex life with her second husband, or that her father is marrying a woman younger than Helen? For all that, this is a good story that will not disappoint Evans's many fans. Recommended for popular fiction collections everywhere. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 5/15/98.]‘Nancy Pearl, Washington Ctr. for the Book, Seattle

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