When Anne Rice announced her break with Christianity a couple of years ago, I became hopeful. It wasn't because I care all that deeply about her personal spiritual beliefs and practices because after all, her philosophy is just that--personal. Rather, it was because back in 2005 this popular author, who once penned the novel, Interview With the Vampire, had announced that she would henceforth, only write novels inspired by her belief in Christianity and the Bible.
During the five years following the change in format, Rice wrote three novels she designated as the Life of Christ series and two more belonging to her Songs of the Seraphim category. For awhile it looked as though she had forever abandoned her darker proclivities and the Gothic novel. So, after the writer's 2010 break with organized religion, my hope arose out of the ashes of literary despair as I pondered her possible writing plans and the potential this new situation presented. I doubted that there would be any new additions to the Vampire Chronicles because she had long ago declared a finish to that series. Still, I took solace in knowing that her creative impulses were once again free to roam--free to travel where they might and hopefully, devoid of restrictions imposed by dogmatic doctrine. I took a wait and see position--and I didn't have to wait very long.
Back in April I was enjoying Happy Hour at my regular watering hole when an acquaintance handed me a book that was enclosed within a secondary cover.. "Happy World Reading Day," he told me. After quickly but gently removing the outer cover, which had been designed by a mutual friend who is a local artist, I read the Title. Anne Rice: The Wolf Gift. The wait was over; the popular author's latest novel had arrived.
The Wolf Gift, published by Alfred A. Knopf this past January, takes place in Northern California where a young and promising reporter named Reuben Golding is on assignment to write a story for the San Francisco Observer about a large and elegant house that is going up for sale after a settlement of the estate. The current owner is a somewhat older but very attractive woman named Marchent Nideck, with whom the aspiring journalist quickly becomes enamored. Tragedy strikes that evening however, as both host and hostess come are assaulted in the darkness by a couple of intruders, which in turn, quickly meet their own fate at the hands of something strong, powerful and unexplained. Reuben, for reasons he doesn't at first understand, survives the attack in spite of serious injury. His remarkable recovery becomes even more pronounced however, when changes in appearance, increases in sensory perception, physical strength and the emergence of intense but previously unknown desires merge to become a part of his persona--the personality of a man wolf, as the author prefers to describe it.
Rice weaves a compelling tale as Reuben learns that he must keep himself from the clutches of law-enforcement agencies that don't understand him and two Russian doctors of malicious intent. And then there is Reuben's own search for the mysterious Felix Nideck, Marchent's long believed dead uncle! As with her vampires, the author causes her character to wrestle with the morality of what has become his nature. He seeks solace through interaction with his brother Jim, a somewhat reluctant Catholic priest who knows the truth but because of his priestly vows, must remain silent. He confesses his sins; yet, cannot assuage his dark desires.
Eventually, the story comes to its climax and Reuben learns the truth of what he has become and how the wolf gift came into being.
If Rice intends to show that she is still capable of writing dark novels, I believe that The Wolf Gift is proof enough. And as if this novel weren't enough, there is a planned release for a second one, which is scheduled to go on sale this coming November. It's name is Interview With the Vampire: Claudia's Story. I can't wait to read it.
Welcome back to the dark side Anne!
Jacket photograph: iStockphoto
Jacket design: Carol Devine Carson