Wolf Den Hollow: A Novel

Written by Donna Murray
Review by B. J. Sedlock

In the Ozarks, around the turn of the 20th century, a young Cherokee woman, Sila, is fleeing her abusive husband, desperate enough to leave him in the dead of winter and try to live off the land. She finds an empty cabin for shelter and asks for a job at a nearby logging/lumber mill operation. Owner Charley Barclay says he has no job for her (thinking a woman would distract his male workers), but out of pity and a feeling of attraction, buys her some supplies and helps improve her cabin. Charley, trapped in a loveless marriage, begins an affair with Sila. The story follows their fortunes as Charley’s business expands, they begin having children, divorce their respective spouses and marry, and Sila resists Charley’s urgings to learn to read, write, and drive a car. But consequences of wars, the flu pandemic, Charley’s illness, and the Depression cause Sila to take drastic steps to save her family.

The author’s note explains that the story is Murray’s adaptation of her grandparents’ lives, which had an element of mystery: her grandmother’s “name was never spoken in our house.” I wonder how much was factual and what Murray had to invent. Different chapters are written from Charley’s and Sila’s points of view. Arcs of person-to-person conflict are mainly limited to two occasions when other men proposition Sila; the second has serious consequences. Because of the limited conflict, I found the story pleasant but not exactly compelling. Yet Charley and Sila’s relationship is romantic, spiced with steamy bedroom scenes. Subplots of Sila’s connection with animals and medicinal plant knowledge are interesting. If you are looking for can’t-put-it-down action or suspense, this isn’t for you, but if you like a romance based on real-life events, you will enjoy Wolf Den Hollow.