Here is a review from a reader in Washington, DC.
Scent of the Wild is a gritty but sensitive story about love, abandonment, survival, and redemption. The main character, Ken, never understands his mother’s departure from their family and never stops wanting to reconnect with her. When his wife leaves him, he doesn’t seem terribly shocked, nor does he do much to stop her. Rather, he comes to terms with this second abandonment better than the first. In the end, he even seems to forgive his wife for taking their daughter, marrying another man, and forming a new family without him.
The characters are well-formed and believable. Ken’s mother and wife are both hard-boiled and independent and clearly don’t need men to complete their sense of self. Ken is kind, good-intentioned, and patient. His daughter is a good blend of both their personalities, tough but tolerant, stubborn but understanding.
The setting is vivid, and one can almost smell the mountain air and hear the dirt crunch under the characters’ feet. The details of place speak to the author’s knowledge and possibly firsthand experience of the story’s location. This is one of the strongest parts of the book.
I wish the characters had shown more of their other sides. I don’t recall seeing a tender side of Noreen or any guilt over anything, something that would make her more believable and richer as a character. I didn’t mind it so much in his mother, since Ken’s recollection of her would be from a child’s viewpoint and somewhat clouded in mystery. He would not have had access to her thoughts prior to her disappearance.
Likewise, Ken’s anger over either abandonment doesn’t seem to show itself. He seems too level-headed and accepting over it all, when I expected him to have some irrational moments. If he had blown up or broke down once or twice, he would have seemed a little deeper.
I found Liv most believable as a character. She was ambivalent – both wary and accepting, wanting to be close to Ken but keep her guard up.
When I realized what Ken was doing with his life towards the end, I felt sad…but I didn’t get why he seemed so rational about it, rather than emotional and desperate or despairing, like he had hit bottom.
Noreen’s appearance in the woods at the end upset me. She just seemed cruel, and I resented her. Good riddance.
I liked the last chapter the best because it allowed Ken to reflect and show more fully what was going on inside…though it did go on a bit long.
I thought the pacing was good, and the story as a whole was about the right length. I’m just not exactly sure I know where it all ended up for Ken, after all that had happened to him. Was he able to make some sense of things, or did he just give up? I felt like I’d spent some time in Colorado!