The Wolf Hour by Sarah Myles
Tessa Lowell has a PhD in psychology, and she is working in Uganda to research the effects of PTSD and war on child soldiers. She is 30 years old and a long way from her life in Australia.
Despite protests she won’t be safe, she joins a delegation travelling deep into the African bush, hoping to gain more insight for her research. The delegation is meeting with notorious terrorist Joseph Kony, who is the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army, one of the worst perpetrators of turning children into soldiers for his cause.
When they finally make the camp, Tessa meets thirteen-year-old Francis, a survivor of brutal violence and already a seasoned soldier. But then the peace talks stall and the rebels abduct Tessa. Deep in the African bush, with little hope of escaping, Tessa tries to form a bond with Francis.
When her parents in Melbourne find out their daughter has been abducted, they are beside themselves, and it seems like none of the government agencies can do anything to help them. So they contact their son Stephen, who is a businessman based in Cape Town, to see if he will search for his sister. But Stephen is not an innocent, successful businessman living a simple life. Instead, he is caught up in something much more sinister, that may save his sister, but at what cost to others?
Death permeates this book, and it’s a heavy read, despite also being an engaging thriller. But it’s hard not to be affected by the story of children being forced to become soldiers, and the terrible mind games that come with this, and also the very real suffering they had gone through, often starting with the death of their families.
Tessa comes across as academically smart, but almost unbelievable naïve in the African environment. Her brother, Stephen, is no hero though, even though he agrees to search for his sister – with greedy ulterior motives that will appal. Then there are Tessa’s parents, and her abduction drives a huge wedge between husband and wife.
After reading The Wolf Hour, I was struck with the feeling that nothing could be solved with the massive problems facing this part of the world. There is very much a sense that time will go on and the same things will just go on and on again. So I applaud this book for its realism and the way it has shined a light on complicated problems. The Wolf Hour is page-turning and thought-provoking, disturbing and a bit depressing, but ultimately worth reading to the end.
Reviewer: Karen McMillan
Allen & Unwin, RRP $32.99