Lone Wolf by Jodi Picoult




  "Picoult, a master of the domestic landscape."-- People

  A life hanging in the balance . . . a family torn apart. The #1 internationally bestselling author Jodi Picoult tells an unforgettable story about family secrets, love, and letting go.

  In the wild, when a wolf knows its time is over, when it knows it is of no more use to its pack, it may sometimes choose to slip away. Dying apart from its family, it stays proud and true to its nature. Humans aren't so lucky.

  Luke Warren has spent his life researching wolves. He has written about them, studied their habits intensively, and even lived with them for extended periods of time. In many ways, Luke understands wolf dynamics better than those of his own family. His wife, Georgie, has left him, finally giving up on their lonely marriage. His son, Edward, twenty-four, fled six years ago, leaving behind a shattered relationship with his father. Edward understands that some things cannot be fixed, though memories of his domineering father still inflict pain. Then comes a frantic phone call: Luke has been gravely injured in a car accident with Edward's younger sister, Cara.

  Suddenly everything changes: Edward must return home to face the father he walked out on at age eighteen. He and Cara have to decide their father's fate together. Though there's no easy answer, questions abound: What secrets have Edward and his sister kept from each other? What hidden motives inform their need to let their father die . . . or to try to keep him alive? What would Luke himself want? How can any family member make such a decision in the face of guilt, pain, or both? And most importantly, to what extent have they all forgotten what a wolf never forgets: that each member of a pack needs the others, and that sometimes survival means sacrifice?

  Another tour de force by Picoult, Lone Wolf brilliantly describes the nature of a family: the love, protection, and strength it can offer--and the price we might have to pay for those gifts. What happens when the hope that should sustain a family is the very thing tearing it apart?

  "Picoult writes with unassuming brilliance."

  --Stephen King

  "Picoult breathes humanity into somber issues and delivers unexpected healing and hope."

  --The Providence Journal

  JODI PICOULT is the author of nineteen novels, including the #1 New York Times bestsellers Sing You Home, House Rules, Handle with Care, Change of Heart, Nineteen Minutes, and My Sister's Keeper. She lives in New Hampshire with her husband and three children. Visit her website at www.jodipicoult.com.

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  JACKET DESIGN BY JEANNE M. LEE

  JACKET PHOTOGRAPH (c) MARK OWEN/ARCANGEL IMAGES

  AUTHOR PHOTOGRAPH BY ADAM BOUSKA

  PRINTED IN THE U.S.A. COPYRIGHT (c) 2012 SIMON & SCHUSTER

  ALSO BY JODI PICOULT

  Sing You Home

  House Rules

  Handle with Care

  Change of Heart

  Nineteen Minutes

  The Tenth Circle

  Vanishing Acts

  My Sister's Keeper

  Second Glance

  Perfect Match

  Salem Falls

  Plain Truth

  Keeping Faith

  The Pact

  Mercy

  Picture Perfect

  Harvesting the Heart

  Songs of the Humpback Whale

  AND FOR THE STAGE

  Over the Moon: An Original Musical for Teens

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  This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

  Copyright (c) 2012 by Jodi Picoult

  The lines from THE BLIND ASSASSIN by Margaret Atwood, copyright (c) 2000 by O. W. Toad, Ltd. Used by permission of Doubleday, a division of Random House, Inc.

  All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever. For information address Atria Books Subsidiary Rights Department, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020.

  First Emily Bestler Books/Atria Books hardcover edition February 2012

  EMILY BESTLER BOOKS / ATRIA BOOKS and colophons are trademarks of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

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  Designed by Jaime Putorti

  Illustrations by John Norton Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Picoult, Jodi, 1966—

  Lone wolf : a novel / by Jodi Picoult. -- 1st Atria Books hardcover ed.

  p. cm.

  1. Accident victims--Fiction. 2. Terminal care--Decision making--Fiction.

  3. Parent and adult child--Fiction. 4. Brothers and sisters--Fiction. I. Title.

  PS3566.I372L66 2012

  813'.54--dc23

  2011039017

  ISBN 978-1-4391-0274-9

  ISBN 978-1-4391-4969-0 (ebook)

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  Contents

  ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

  PROLOGUE

  LUKE

  PART ONE

  CARA

  LUKE

  GEORGIE

  LUKE

  EDWARD

  LUKE

  CARA

  LUKE

  EDWARD

  LUKE

  GEORGIE

  EDWARD

  EDWARD

  LUKE

  CARA

  LUKE

  GEORGIE

  LUKE

  EDWARD

  LUKE

  CARA

  LUKE

  EDWARD

  PART TWO

  CARA

  LUKE

  GEORGIE

  LUKE

  EDWARD

  LUKE

  CARA

  LUKE

  EDWARD

  LUKE

  CARA

  LUKE

  JOE

  LUKE

  GEORGIE

  LUKE

  LUKE

  CARA

  LUKE

  JOE

  LUKE

  EDWARD

  LUKE

  GEORGIE

  LUKE

  CARA

  LUKE

  JOE

  LUKE

  CARA

  LUKE

  EDWARD

  LUKE

  HELEN

  LUKE

  CARA

  LUKE

  EDWARD

  LUKE

  CARA

  LUKE

  EPILOGUE

  BARNEY

  ABOUT EMILY BESTLER BOOKS

  ABOUT ATRIA

  ABOUT WASHINGTON SQUARE PRESS

  ASK ATRIA

  AUTHOR'S NOTE

  ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

  I'm fortunate to be surrounded by people who make me look much smarter than I am, all of whom contributed to the research for this book. In the medical field, I am indebted to Dr. James Bernat, who spent hours with me discussing potential traumatic brain injuries and was alwa
ys available to field an email with yet more questions from me. Thanks to social workers Nancy Trottier and Jane Stephenson, as well as Sean Fitzpatrick and Karen Lord of the New England Organ Bank. Jon Skinner provided me with detailed medical care costs in New Hampshire. Lise Iwon, Lise Gescheidt, Maureen McBrien, and Janet Gilligan are my legal wizards; Jennifer Sargent not only found wonderful legal wrinkles for me to iron out but connected me with people like Elizabeth Stanton, who could help me navigate them. Thanks to Doug Irwin for letting me use the line about the difference between dreams and goals.

  If we're counting blessings, I have to give credit to the publishing company that has been my home for over a decade (mostly because the people inside it are amazing): Carolyn Reidy, Judith Curr, Sarah Branham, Kate Cetrulo, Caroline Porter, Chris Lloreda, Jeanne Lee, Gary Urda, Lisa Keim, Rachel Zugschwert, Michael Selleck, and the many others who have quite literally made me the author I am. The publicity machine behind me is a force to be reckoned with: David Brown, Ariele Fredman, Camille McDuffie, and Kathleen Carter Zrelak--wow. Just wow. And Emily Bestler--after all this time I hardly know how to thank you for all you've done. Luckily we have reached the point where we can read each other's mind.

  Laura Gross is the second-longest relationship in my life, after my husband. As an agent, she's formidable. As a friend, she's unforgettable. Thanks for letting me steal your line about the table and the stool.

  To my mom, Jane Picoult: maybe all moms feel underappreciated (God knows I do sometimes). But here is public proof that you're not. If we had our choice of moms, I would have picked you. Thanks for being my first reader, my unflaggable cheerleader, and for telling me that Dad couldn't put down the wolf sections on the plane.

  A special thanks goes out to Shaun Ellis. When I created the character of Luke Warren, a man who lives among wolves in order to know them better, I didn't realize that someone like that already existed in the real world. Shaun has written a memoir, The Man Who Lives with Wolves, which I encourage you all to read. He and his wife, Dr. Isla Fishburn, a conservation biologist, welcomed me to Devon to meet his captive packs, to share his life experience and his vast knowledge of these amazing animals, and to let me borrow bits and pieces of the incredible life he has led to flesh out my fictional character. Kerry Hood, my British publicist, kindly chauffeured my son Jake and me to Combe Martin. I will never forget how Shaun taught the three of us to howl . . . and what it sounded like when the other packs answered our call. He is a wonderful human spokesman for his wolf brethren, and more information about The Wolf Centre, where Shaun is an integral part of the team, can be found at the end of this book.

  Finally, as always, I have to thank my own pack: my husband, Tim; my children, Kyle, Jake, and Samantha. As is the case with wolves--I'd be nothing without all of you.

  For Josh, Alex, and Matthew Picoult

  Your aunt loves you. Lots.

  PROLOGUE

  All stories are about wolves. All worth repeating, that is. Anything else is sentimental drivel. . . . Think about it. There's escaping from the wolves, fighting the wolves, capturing the wolves, taming the wolves. Being thrown to the wolves, or throwing others to the wolves so the wolves will eat them instead of you. Running with the wolf pack. Turning into a wolf. Best of all, turning into the head wolf. No other decent stories exist.

  --Margaret Atwood, The Blind Assassin (2000)

  LUKE

  In retrospect, maybe I shouldn't have freed the tiger.

  The others were easy enough: the lumbering, grateful pair of elephants; the angry capuchin monkey that spit at my feet when I jimmied the lock; the snowy Arabian horses whose breath hung in the space between us like unanswered questions. Nobody gives animals enough credit, least of all circus trainers, but I knew the minute they saw me in the shadows outside their cages they would understand, which is why even the noisiest bunch--the parrots that had been bullied into riding on the ridiculous cumulus-cloud heads of poodles--beat their wings like a single heart while making their escape.

  I was nine years old, and Vladistav's Amazing Tent of Wonders had come to Beresford, New Hampshire--which was a miracle in its own right, since nothing ever came to Beresford, New Hampshire, except for skiers who were lost, and reporters during presidential primaries who stopped off to get coffee at Ham's General Store or to take a leak at the Gas'n'Go. Almost every kid I knew had tried to squeeze through the holes in the temporary fencing that had been erected by the circus carnies so that we could watch the show without having to pay for a ticket. And in fact that was how I first saw the circus, hiding underneath the bleachers and peering through the feet of paying customers with my best friend, Louis.

  The inside of the tent was painted with stars. It seemed like something city people would do, because they hadn't realized that if they just took down the tent, they could see real stars instead. Me, I'd grown up with the outdoors. You couldn't live where I did--on the edge of the White Mountain National Forest--and not have spent your fair share of nights camping and looking up at the night sky. If you let your eyes adjust, it looked like a bowl of glitter that had been turned over, like the view from inside a snow globe. It made me feel sorry for these circus folks, who had to improvise with stencils instead.

  I will admit that, at first, I couldn't tear my eyes away from the red sequined topcoat of the ringmaster and the endless legs of the girl on the tightrope. When she did a split in the air and landed with her legs veed around the wire, Louis let out the breath he'd been holding. Lucky rope, he said.

  Then they started to bring out the animals. The horses were first, rolling their angry eyes. Then the monkey, in a silly bellman's outfit, which climbed onto the saddle of the lead horse and bared his teeth at the audience as he rode around and around. The dogs that jumped through hoops, the elephants that danced as if they were in a different time zone, the rainbow fluster of birds.

  Then came the tiger.

  There was a lot of hype, of course. About how dangerous a beast he was, about how we shouldn't try this at home. The trainer, who had a doughy, freckled face like a cinnamon roll, stood in the middle of the ring as the hatch on the tiger's cage was lifted. The tiger roared and, even as far away as I was, I smelled his bouillon breath.

  He leaped onto a metal stand and swiped at the air. He stood on his hind legs on command. He turned in a circle.

  I knew a thing or two about tigers. Like: If you shaved one, its skin would still be striped. And every tiger had a white mark on the back of each ear, so that it seemed like it was keeping an eye on you even when it was walking away.

  Like: They belonged in the wild. Not here, in Beresford, while the crowd shouted and clapped.

  In that instant two things happened. First, I realized I didn't much like the circus anymore. Second, the tiger stared right at me, as if he had searched out my seat number beforehand.

  I knew exactly what he wanted me to do.

  After the evening show, the performers went down to the lake behind the elementary school to drink and play poker and swim. It meant that most of their trailers, parked behind the big top, were empty. There was a guard--an Everest of a man with a shaved head and a hoop ring piercing his nose--but he was snoring to beat the band, with an empty bottle of vodka beside him. I slipped inside the fence.

  Even in retrospect, I can't tell you why I did it. It was something between that tiger and me; that knowledge that I was free, and he wasn't. The fact that his unpredictable, raw life had been reduced to a sideshow at three and seven.

  The trickiest cage to unlatch was the monkey's. Most, though, I could open with an ice pick I'd stolen from my grandfather's liquor cabinet. I let out the animals swiftly and quietly, watching them slip into the folds of the night. They seemed to understand that discretion was in order; not even the parrots made a sound as they disappeared.

  The last one I freed was the tiger. I figured the other animals ought to have a good fifteen minutes of lead time to get away before I released a predator on their heels. So I cro
uched down in front of the cage and drew in the soft dirt with a pebble, marking time on my wristwatch. I was sitting there, waiting, when the Bearded Lady walked by.

  She saw me right away. "Well, well," she said, although I couldn't see her mouth in the mess of the whiskers. But she didn't ask me what I was doing, and she didn't tell me to leave. "Watch out," she said. "He sprays." She must have noticed the other animals were gone--I hadn't bothered to try to disguise the open, empty cages and pens--but she just stared at me for a long moment, and then walked up the steps to her trailer. I held my breath, expecting her to call the cops, but instead I heard a radio. Violins. When she sang along, she had a deep baritone voice.

  I will tell you that, even after all this time, I remember the sound of metal teeth grinding against each other as I opened the tiger's cage. How he rubbed up against me like a house cat before leaping the fence in a single bound. How I could actually taste fear, like almond sponge cake, when I realized I was bound to get caught.

  Except . . . I didn't. The Bearded Lady never told anyone about me, and the circus roadies who cleaned up elephant dung were blamed instead. Besides, the town was too busy the next morning restoring order and apprehending the loose animals. The elephants were found splashing in the town fountain after knocking down a marble statue of Franklin Pierce. The monkey had made its way into the pie case at the local diner and was devouring a chocolate dream silk torte when he was caught. The dogs were Dumpster diving behind the movie theater, and the horses had scattered. One was found galloping down Main Street. One made its way to a local farmer's pasture to graze with cattle. One traveled over ten miles to a ski hill, where it was spotted by a trauma helicopter. Of the three parrots, two were permanently lost, and one was found roosting in the belfry of the Shantuck Congregational Church.

  The tiger, of course, was long gone. And that presented a problem, because a renegade parrot is one thing, but a loose carnivore is another. The National Guard was dispersed into the White Mountain National Forest and for three days, schools in New Hampshire stayed closed. Louis came to my house on his bike and told me rumors he'd heard: that the tiger had slaughtered Mr. Wolzman's prize heifer, a toddler, our principal.

  I didn't like to think about the tiger eating anything at all. I pictured him sleeping high in a tree during the day; and at night, navigating by the stars.

  Six days after I freed the circus animals, a National Guardsman named Hopper McPhee, who had only joined up a week earlier, found the tiger. The big cat was swimming in the Ammonoosuc River, its face and paws still bloody from feeding on a deer. According to Hopper McPhee, the tiger came flying at him with intent to kill, which is why he had to shoot.

 
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