So begins this bold and breathtakingly ambitious new novel from Stephen Marche, the provocative Esquire columnist and regular contributor to The Atlantic whose last work of fiction was described by the New York Times Book Review as "maybe the most exciting mash-up of literary genres since David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas ." In The Hunger of the Wolf , Marche delivers a modern morality tale about the rapacity of global capitalism that manages to ask the most important questions we face about what it means to live in the new Gilded Age. Read more...
So begins this bold and breathtakingly ambitious new novel from Stephen Marche, the provocative Esquire columnist and regular contributor to The Atlantic whose last work of fiction was described by the New York Times Book Review as "maybe the most exciting mash-up of literary genres since David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas." In The Hunger of the Wolf, Marche delivers a modern morality tale about the rapacity of global capitalism that manages to ask the most important questions we face about what it means to live in the new Gilded Age.
The body in the snow belonged to Ben Wylie, the heir to America's second-wealthiest business dynasty, and it is found in a remote patch of northern Canada. Far away, in post-crash New York, Jamie Cabot, the son of the Wylie family's housekeepers, must figure out how and why Ben died. He knows the answer lies in the tortured history of the Wylie family, who over three generations built up their massive holdings into several billion dollars' worth of real estate, oil, and information systems despite a terrible family secret they must keep from the world. The threads of the Wylie men's destinies, both financial and supernatural, lead twistingly but inevitably to the naked body in the snow and a final, chilling revelation.
The Hunger of the Wolf is a novel about what it means to be a man in the world of money. It is a story of fathers and sons, about secrets that are kept within families, and about the cost of the tension between the public face and the private soul. Spanning from the mills of Depression-era Pittsburgh to the Swinging London of the 1960s, from desolate Alberta to the factories of present-day China, it is a powerfully affecting work of fiction that uses the story of a single family to capture the way we live now: an epic, genre-busting tale of money, morality, and the American Dream.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2014-12-22
- Reviewer: Staff
The nature of family bonds and wealth are at the heart of this spellbinding tale from Marche (Love and the Mess We’re In). Jamie Cabot grew up in isolated northern Alberta, Canada, where his parents work for the elusive and enigmatic Wylie family, one of the richest business dynasties in the world. When Ben Wylie, an extremely wealthy man, is found naked and dead in the frigid Alberta snow, Jamie’s curiosity spikes, and he becomes determined to uncover the secret behind the Wylie family. From the Canadian hinterlands to New York City society life, Jamie seeks contact with the Wylies. Despite the novel’s account of their dramatic accumulation of a peerless fortune, the Wylies remain mysterious—not only to Jamie and to the public, but also to one another. No word is out of place in this taut multigenerational tale, which takes some enjoyable supernatural turns—readers will be just as driven as Jamie to discover the mystery at the heart of the Wylie’s legacy. Agent: P.J. Mark, Janklow & Nesbit. (Feb.)
For those who argue that global capitalism is in the midst of a second Gilded Age, Canadian novelist Stephen Marche’s second novel (after Raymond and Hannah) offers an intriguing genre-crossing allegory for the rapacity and relentlessness of that economic philosophy.
Marche’s narrator, Jamie Cabot, a struggling New York freelance journalist, channels Nick Carraway in this story of the Wylies, the eighth-richest family in the world, whose male members just happen to be werewolves. From his humble beginnings as the son of an immigrant barber in a small mill town near Pittsburgh, Dale Wylie launches a radio station in the Depression-era Midwest that eventually becomes a globe-spanning media conglomerate. The novel follows the family through the next two generations, climaxing in the death of Dale’s grandson Ben, the discovery of whose frozen body in northern Alberta opens the story.
In his portrayal of the Wylie men (and Ben’s adopted Chinese sister, Poppy), Marche conveys the ambivalence that surrounds the accumulation of a fortune so vast it “enables the fulfillment that eludes ordinary life.” Whether it’s Dale acquiring a British media empire or his son George entering the Chinese market on the eve of its emergence as an economic superpower, the preternatural skill of the Wylie men in creating a life of “fluid, effortless expansion” is matched only by their determination to live in near obscurity.
Though he no doubt will be delighted if this novel is a popular success, Marche isn’t simply another literary novelist who’s decided to season his work with some commercial flourishes. His brief digressions into a psychiatric case study of “lycanthropy as a narcissistic delusion” or of the history of accounts of werewolves, dating back to The Epic of Gilgamesh nearly 4,000 years ago, show a serious engagement with that theme and lend texture to the story.
“The rich should be different from you and me but they’re not,” Jamie Cabot observes, turning F. Scott Fitzgerald’s famous formulation on its head. This convincing portrait of how money can satisfy material wants without slaking emotional hunger tells a tale that cautions while it entertains.