An expansive novel of great emotional depth, The Work of Wolves is an experience that evokes South Dakota's great wilderness and the spirit of those who make their living from the land.
What begins as an uneven exchange between an arrogant, powerful ranch owner and a teenaged boy who purchases a horse from him blossoms into a destructive battle of wills, when wealthy Magnus Yarborough entices the now twenty-five-year old Carson Fielding to his land to train three horses and give his wife riding lessons.
Yarborough senses a stoic invulnerability in Carson but imagines he can break any man with his power and his will. Although Carson is attracted to Rebecca Yarborough, half her husband’s age, he respects the boundaries of marriage, performing the job as contracted. But when Earl Walks Alone, a young Lakota Indian, comes to Carson with a story of three horses wounded and starving, Carson understands the extent of Yarborough’s enmity.
Four lives are intimately connected in the unfolding drama: Carson Fielding, Earl Walks Alone, Ted Kills Many and Willi Schubert, a German exchange student with a love of all things Lakota. Fielding bears the immediate consequences and has the most to lose in facing the wrath of Magnus Yarborough, but the four young men are ultimately linked by their actions, their friendship deepening with the desperation of their endeavor.
This massive country is a great leveler, keeper of the truth, its lessons irrevocable. A new generation learns the motivations of their forebears, how a relationship with the land can either enrich a man or strip away his connections to others, depending on the kind of man he is.
In this novel, separate worlds overlap - rich and poor, ranch and reservation - as the cowboy, the immigrant and the Indians unite to rectify a wrong, to deny the cruelty sparked by a loss of control. Yarborough shows the bland mien of power's indifference, but Carson, Willi, Earl and Ted display the face of humanity, each carefully navigating his own terrain until bound by their common cause, a rejection of Yarborough's "suffering as message."
The author tells a story through each character, of Nazi Germany with all its grand delusions, of robber barons trapping Indians in reservations, of a young man's vision of his grandfather's legacy. As disparate elements fold into a vast and chilling landscape, this novel transports the reader to another, finer consciousness, where human flaws are acceptable but heartlessness is not: "Maybe bad ideas rotted from the inside out, swelling and bloating from their own incoherence, and time was a sieve in which they caught and through which they could not flow."
This story is as primitive as the land, generations of families who make their mark on such places, carving out ranches, homes and barns, fences of rusting barbed wire, women with deep souls paired with men of few words. Astonishing, courageous and generous, the four young men come together in this place and time, crossing the line into a brotherhood that will change their lives. "The turtle rolls over. The earth slides off its back."