Title: We Are Wolves
Author: Katrina Nannestad
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: HarperCollins Australia/ABC Books
Published: 29th October 2020
Synopsis: THE POWERFUL NEW NOVEL FROM AWARD-WINNING AUSTRALIAN WRITER KATRINA NANNESTAD
Sometimes it’s good to be wild.
Sometimes you have to be wild.
When the Russian Army marches into East Prussia at the end of the war, the Wolf family must flee. Liesl, Otto and their baby sister Mia find themselves lost and alone, in a blizzard, in the middle of a war zone. Liesl has promised Mama that she will keep her brother and sister safe.
But sometimes, to survive, you have to do bad things. Dangerous things. Wild things.
Sometimes to survive, you must become a wolf.
Bestselling author Katrina Nannestad returns with her most masterful novel yet – a book to crack open your heart, a book to light you up inside, a book to love.
Set in the East Prussian region of Germany in 1944, as the final months of the war across Europe are unfolding, the Russian Army has arrived, not long after Liesl’s father has been summoned to fight for Germany. Yet as the Russians arrive, the Wolf family flee, and soon, the three children, Liesl, Otto and baby Mia are alone in the wilderness, trying to survive and keep out of sight of the Russians taking over and ransacking Germany. Liesl does everything she can to keep her promise to Mamma, and they run. Run into abandoned houses, take things that are lying around and eat whatever they can just to survive. They become Wolf Children – German children lost and abandoned at the end of World War Two, hiding in barns and with Lithuanian families, and shedding their identities to escape the clutches of the Russians.
Liesl has only ever known a Germany under Hitler, and her brother has only ever known war. Mia is so far untouched by the horrors of war, but how will these experiences change her? All the children change across the novel, from their lives of luxury to living off the land, and meeting other Wolf children as they make their way to Lithuania, fearing the worst about their family.
Every story set during World War Two is different – there are so many threads that can be pulled and tweaked to tell a new story, through a new perspective. Liesl’s story is a testament to the power of hope, and courage, and the role of family in pushing forwards to reach your destination and keep your humanity during a time of terror and turmoil that no child should ever have to experience. Her determination shines through every word, and the novel is divided into parts – each referencing wolves and a different stage of the Wolf siblings’ journey to freedom, or a freedom of some kind.
This is one of those books that breaks your heart, and gives you hope. It shows you what courage and hope are, and how people have to search deep within themselves to find it. It is, at its heart, about family and survival, and sometimes, family is what you make it, even if temporary. Conflict comes in many forms, as Liesl and her family will discover, and shows what desperation will do to some people.
This was one book that I couldn’t put down, that I had to finish, and stayed up well into the night to do so, so I could find out if Liesl achieved what she set out to do when she was first separated from the adults in her life.
Telling stories like this through the eyes of children like Liesl is powerful for all readers. For children, they can gain an understanding of what children in a war-zone and a post-war world had to go through, and for adults, it serves as a reminder of the strength we can find when faced with impossible decisions.
This is a book of hope, and one that could be used to teach children of the horrors of war, and what children faced. It a book that captures your mind, your heart and your feelings, and disrupts your sense of self and place, displacing you in a sense, as you flee with the Wolf children into the biting snow. Katrina Nannestad has created a sense of place – you feel like you’re in the winter, amidst the snow and ice, and amongst the devastation surrounding the characters. It is a powerful novel that will stay with you long after you finish it.