Thursday, June 11, 2020

Fiction Review: The Call of the Wild

Just before all the movie theaters (and everything else) shut down in March, we saw The Call of the Wild on the big screen with some friends. I remembered reading it in Junior High, though my old friends on Facebook don't (but they think it is crazy that I remember what we read in school and which year!). The movie inspired me to re-read the classic novel, The Call of the Wild by Jack London, which my husband just read a couple of years ago, too. I thoroughly enjoyed this action-packed, heartfelt story of a dog and a man and the pull of nature, set in the wild Alaskan/Canadian lands.

In the 1890's, the Klondike Gold Rush drew many men to the wilds of the furthest northern reaches of our continent, with the lure of riches. With all those men drawn up north, there was also a great need for large, strong dogs to pull the sleds necessary for travel in the deep roadless snow. One dog, named Buck, was living a quiet domestic life in the pleasant climate of northern California in a large home owned by a judge when an employee sold him off secretly for the large bounty being offered for such dogs. Buck was a fully domesticated animal, who knew only the lands of his home, but he was bound and caged and shipped further and further north, passing hands multiple times. He soon learned "the law of the club" with one cruel owner/merchant and the "law of the fang" as he encountered rougher dogs who were used to fighting for food and survival. Eventually, Buck arrived in Alaska and was put to work on a Canadian mail sled. Though entirely new to the world of the sled dog, Buck was a quick learner, and under the tutelage of the other dogs (some friendly and some not) and the kind mail carriers, he quickly became one of the top dogs on the team. Buck's career as a sled dog continued, through owners kind and cruel, until he was finally defeated by one senseless owner who worked the dogs too hard and fed them too little. Starved of both food and kindness, Buck met John, and the two became inseparable, as Buck began to heal.

It's a wonderful and somewhat familiar story (I definitely read it before, even if my school friends don't remember), told entirely from Buck's perspective. Jack London was an engaging writer who wrote a very engrossing story, filled with action, adventure, suspense, and love. His passages describing the love and affection between John and Buck are lyrical and heart-warming (though after seeing the movie, I now hear John's voice in my head as Harrison Ford!). As is apparent from the plot description above, there is also a fair amount of violence and sometimes abuse in the novel. I believe it is probably fairly accurate for the time, place, and circumstances, and the author clearly depicts the animal-animal violence as a natural part of their natures. The overall theme here is echoed in the book's title: throughout the novel, Buck is pulled between domesticity and the innate "call of the wild," the pull of the natural world and of his ancestors and close relatives, the wolves. Of course, I disliked the violence, but I was gripped by this compelling tale from the very beginning and loved being a part of Buck's life. We also have White Fang, another Jack London novel with similar themes, in the same book, so I may read that as well.

101 pages, Bantam Classic

Listen to a sample of the audiobook here, with a description of Buck and his home from the beginning of the book, and/or download it from Audible.

You can purchase The Call of the Wild from an independent bookstore, either locally or online, here:
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Or you can order The Call of the Wild from Book Depository, with free shipping worldwide.


  1. This brought back such memories! I first read this book as a child of (maybe) ten and I loved it! I reread it numerous times that summer. Your review is excellent. Thank you for reminding me of one of my first loves in books.

    1. Glad to bring back great memories for you, Dorothy! Funny, my husband said my review and said "You should have mentioned that it's not a book for kids!" But it sounds like you enjoyed it as a kid :) I think I read it in 7th or 8th grade.

  2. I have never read nor seen this one, but feel like I should have as it's on all "must read" lists.

    1. It's a super-quick tread, Helen, with some good suspense, so if you're still struggling to concentrate, this would be a great choice!