Wild Life charts the life of Charlotte Bridger Drummond, a rather freethinking woman. The action takes place in the Pacific Northwest logging towns and forests in the early 1900s. The story emerges through a series of diary entries, character sketches, quotations and short stories collected by Charlotte and found years later by one of her grandchildren.
Charlotte supports herself, her five sons and her housekeeper by writing action/adventure stories with heroic, self-sufficient female protagonists. She wears trousers, smokes cigars, and condescends to act in a more “womanly” fashion at all costs. She loves her sons but lacks a certain closeness with them. So it is somewhat out of character that she goes to search for her housekeeper’s granddaughter, who has gone missing. Charlotte believes that she will be successful in finding the little girl after so many men have failed. One also suspects that for all her claims to the contrary, she does house maternal instincts.
The turning point in the novel comes when Charlotte reaches the logging camp and starts in on the search. After only a few days, she herself becomes lost. Alone in the wild, she must face her fears or die. I won’t reveal how she accomplishes this or who are her rescuers. Suffice it to say that Gloss excels at making the unbelievable very believable, while at the same time juxtaposing the honor of the wild with ignoble civilization. The pleasure of reading this book is doubly rich in that the writing is as complex as the subject matter or the characters. This would make an excellent selection for a book group.