The first ten books can be seen here. The second ten are here. Nos. 21–36 are below this post.
37. BK Loren, Theft (2012) (8/22/16)
I had the good fortune of taking a writing class with BK not long ago, and in it she referred to her wonderful novel Theft and talked about some of the things she'd done formally with it. That got me curious to reread it—this time as a writer as much as a reader.
The story involves a sister and brother pair, Willa and Zeb, and a handful of other characters: it has a very small cast, almost like a play. Much of it is told from Willa's point of view, in the first person; everyone else's story is told in the third person. The basic plot swings back and forth in time between Willa and Zeb as teenagers, and Willa twenty-odd years later, now a wilderness tracker and endangered-wolf relocator, being called in to track down her long-estranged fugitive brother.
But that's just the plot. The beauty of this book is in the characterization, the psychology, the emotional depths. As BK instructed in her class, chronology is less important in a story than motivation. Or as the originators of South Park put it in a recent interview, you don't want "And then," you want "And so" or "But."
There is much talk of wildness in this novel, and of belonging; of doing what's right versus doing what you have no control over; of yearning, surrender, and loss. BK has a delicious way of evoking interiority. As here: "I stand stiff and strong, nothing showing, no fear when you look at me, but there's a bird trapped in my body. I can feel it fluttering in my chest, batting crazy against the walls of my ribcage, caught in too small a space."
Or here: "What he felt first was harder than he imagined it would be: the letting go. If life had ever made sense, it would have been a slow and steady letting go from beginning to end. But it was the opposite of that. It was a constant piling on, a weave of love that knitted its way more permanently into him daily. The absurdity of it had drained him and confused him—this intense love he'd been born with living side by side with the fact that no connection ever satisfied him. If he'd sometimes avoided connection, it had been because he craved it so much, and it was never enough."
But it's not all internal. There's glorious description of people and land as well. "And right now he had a narrow open road stretched out before him, and some cold brews sitting in the Coleman cooler waiting for him in the back of the truck, and there was nothing like an extra-hot autumn day in the high desert, the last days of summer perched on the promise of winter—nothing like a day like that to make a man feel like he just might live forever."
And finally, there are the wolves, who thread through the book and give it energy. "What they have become to me—I can't put my finger on it," says Willa. "They are every strand I have ever lived all woven into one long braid of time. They are, like Raymond says, a connection to a past that goes beyond my own past. They are wild, and they are completely dependent on us, on our every decision. The only truth they know is hunger; their only right or wrong is survival; their only belief is the day as it comes to them. It's not how I want to live. But I need them to live that way, to remind me that everything beyond is gravy."