Charlotte, willfully independent, writes adventure novels about strong, independent, young heroines, and sometimes resents the distraction of trying to raise her five sons. She has help in that area, and in the necessary housework; Melba is her live-in housekeeper and cook, and holds the accepted notions of femininity and motherhood which rule those times. When Melba’s four-year-old granddaughter goes missing at a logging camp to which her father took her, Charlotte leaves home to join the search parties. Here is when the story really takes flight.
The interlude of her salvation starts a new flight of introspection in which she must reexamine her notions of family, the differences between the sexes, and the distinction between humans and animals. Ms. Gloss nails these speculations perfectly. Of course, we are forced to consider these issues alongside our heroine; the author shoves her and us toward new subtleties and a new honesty in how we look at the world. These issues are presented in a kind of multi-media format, in which the main body of the narrative is interweaved with contemporaneous news articles, excerpts written by the author before and after her adventure, and long asides about characters. The whole hangs superbly together, and displays the author’s command of news and attitudes, scientific knowledge and thought of the day. More important, however, Ms. Gloss gives us the inward journey of a real human heroine, through harrowing adventure, and the even greater challenge of a changed and refocused heart. The author gives us a remarkable, truly moving work in “Wild Life,” and I urge you to take it up.