Thursday, December 22, 2022

Christiane M. Andrews's "Wolfish"

Christiane M. Andrews grew up in rural New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine and still calls northern New England home. Her debut novel, Spindlefish and Stars, received starred reviews from Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, and Booklist, and was named a Kirkus Best Book of 2020 and a Booklist Editors’ Choice for 2020. A longtime writing and literature instructor, Andrews lives with her husband and son and a small clutch of animals on an old New Hampshire hilltop farm.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, Wolfish:
Wolfish, a very loose reimagining of the Romulus and Remus myth, centers on four key characters: a rising boy-king who receives a troubling prophecy; Alba, a young oracle-apprentice who, despite her best intentions, gives the king this prophecy; and the twins the king abandons in the wilderness in an attempt to escape his foretold fate. While one twin, a girl, is rescued by shepherds who name her Rae and raise her as their own, the boy is left to nature. Nursed by a she-wolf, re-stitched by insects, he becomes a wolf himself, and it is years before the twins—as girl and wolf—find each other again. When the king learns the twins have lived, he sets out in search of them, and as his hunt grows ever more desperate and cruel, Rae and the wolf must unite with Alba to try to stop his terrible reign.

While much of Wolfish is set in a realistic ancient world, it does incorporate some fantastical natural elements—in particular, the aforementioned mysterious stitching insects and the boy bound into wolf. Though I don’t envision actors or directors or cinematic elements as I write, I think David Lowery’s The Green Knight, in which the fantastical arises out of lushly filmed nature that highlights beauty and depth and mystery, is an excellent model. (This is visible to some extent in his Pete’s Dragon as well.) Guillermo del Toro’s films, too, that present the magical within the human world (The Shape of Water or Pan’s Labyrinth, for example) could be another possible direction, as could Bong Joon-ho’s Okja.

Actors are more challenging, especially since the characters in Wolfish age almost a decade and a half over the course of the novel—some going from infants to teens, others from teens to adults. So I will cheat a little and name a director who I believe works brilliantly with children and whom I would trust implicitly in casting the roles for Wolfish: Alice Rohrwacher. In Happy as Lazzaro (Felice Lazzaro) and, especially, The Wonders (Le meraviglie), Rohrwacher captures stunning performances from her young actors. (Someone like Alexandra Lungu, who in The Wonders plays a girl so immersed in the natural world she is comfortable holding bees in her mouth, would, in fact, make an excellent Rae.) Lazzaro additionally demonstrates Rohrwacher’s ability to portray character change over years, and both films skillfully highlight the tension between nature and civilization—an important conflict in Wolfish.
Visit Christiane M. Andrews's website.

My Book, The Movie: Spindlefish and Stars.

Q&A with Christiane M. Andrews.

The Page 69 Test: Wolfish.

Writers Read: Christiane M. Andrews.

--Marshal Zeringue