In western Pennsylvania during WWII, there was an area in between farmlands called Wolf Hollow. The name, coined several generations back, originated from the story of a great wolf purge in which Annabelle McBride’s grandfather participated and related to her years later. There were many old secrets in the woods, and for as long as she could remember, a man named Toby had walked the grounds continually. He lived in an old shack behind an abandoned, burned house. Toby was a quiet and mysterious WWI veteran, and Annabelle’s family took pity on him, leaving him provisions at times in an old crate, and even allowing him to use their camera.
Everything changed for Annabelle the year she was turning twelve. Betty Glengarry, a mean-spirited bully, came to stay with her grandparents not far from the McBride farm, and immediately chose Annabelle as her target on the walk to and from school. As events escalated, Toby eventually came under Betty’s radar and she shifted her focus to him, knowing Annabelle’s fondness for the gentle wanderer.
This is the story of the residual effects of war, the harmfulness of bullying, and several different types of prejudices. Annabelle makes an admirable character, as she’s smart, honest and caring, but also flawed and therefore humanized. The plot, in which I had initial trepidations due to the subject matter, turned out to be a much different tale than I’d realized and the protagonist and her family a lovely set of personalities. This book will appeal to readers young and old looking for a mid-20th century setting.