The Wolves of Andover
Kathleen Kent’s debut book, The Heretic’s Daughter, was one of the most memorable novels I read last year. Kent’s second novel revisits that novel’s heroine, Martha Carrier, during her youth, providing additional backstory on both Martha and her husband, Thomas. Unmarried at age nineteen, Martha is sent to her cousin Patience’s home to assist her during her pregnancy. Martha bears her troubles with the sort of toughness that is often associated with New Englanders, whether colonial or contemporary, rather than rebelling against her spoiled, pampered cousin. The village is plagued by wolves, and one of the family’s servants, a strapping Welshman named Thomas Carrier, devises a plan to trap them. Martha becomes fascinated with the wolves and with Thomas as well, and she quickly learns the dark secret that Thomas fled England to forget. But while Thomas is hunting the wolves, paid assassins have been sent from England to hunt Thomas with the intention of punishing him for his role in the death of Charles I during the English Civil War.
The titular wolves are a metaphor for a variety of characters in the novel, and it’s a successful metaphor indeed. Some are hunters, some are hunted, and survival at any cost is first in everyone’s mind. I quickly realized how suited Martha and Thomas were to one another—both dignified adults trying to live an independent life. The narrative is vivid yet spare, and Kent does not hold back in her descriptions of cruel 17th-century justice. Like The Heretic’s Daughter, The Wolves of Andover is an extraordinary novel that will stay with readers long after the final page has been read. Enthusiastically recommended.