The Wolf Road is a stunning, hard-hitting, post-apocalyptic novel; a story of survival in the forest wilderness of north-west Canada, and probably the most original book I've read this year. So, I'm delighted that today Our Book Reviews is the stopping off point for author Beth Lewis on her blog tour. Here she is to talk about one of the important images of the novel - fire!
My Life with Fire
There’s something about a roaring fire, isn’t there? Staring into those flames, dancing in the grate, it’s utterly mesmeric. Fire brings a family and community together and that’s something that so many cultures share. I spent most of my teenage summers around a campfire or bonfire on the beach. We shared food, drink, and stories with strangers and made new friends who I still cherish today. Fire took center stage in those years and in many different forms. First, there were the bonfires, the beach parties, the coming together of people from all over the country with one shared interest – performance. Then the fire was harnessed, lit and burning on the end of chains to be spun into beautiful, intricate patterns.
Poi have been around for hundreds of years and are now a staple of festivals and fun-loving individuals. I started spinning poi when I was sixteen and lit them on fire soon after. Poi are basically weights on the end of string or chain which you spin around your body into patterns. It becomes a dance and when you chuck fire into the mix, it becomes something so much more. Being inside a fireball is otherworldly. You see only darkness and bright yellow flames, you smell only paraffin and burning and feel only heat and hear nothing but the roar. And boy, there’s nothing like that roar. It’s addictive. One spin with those heavy, flaming poi and I was hooked. I learned to eat fire, trail it over my skin and I took part in a record-breaking attempt to have the most fire spinners going at once. It was well over a hundred, it lit up the tiny Cornish beach. We made a second attempt at a festival a few years later. I made incredible friends doing it too. I met my best friend on a beach, around a bonfire. I had fire spinners at my wedding. It was my life for years and it was magical to be around so many like-minded people from all walks of life. We all shared this very simple love – friends, fun, and fire.
Then I moved to the city and gradually work, life, writing, took over my time. The love of the danger, the addiction to it, have never left me. When I see footage of Glastonbury or old fiery friends post photos of the old days, I get a deep pang of nostalgia and yearning. I can’t get to those festivals as much anymore and that saddens me no end.
It’s no coincidence then, that I wrote fire as such an important part of the story in The Wolf Road. It’s in the background, it’s subtle, but it’s there. Fire appears at key moments in Elka’s story, transformative moments that speak to how she had changed as a character in the time she’s been on her journey. The first is destructive, it’s the catalyst that spurs her into the wilderness. Then it becomes her savior, then her teaching tool, then she shares it with those in need, it brings her close to people she would normally never have trusted. Fire does that. It brings people together and it brings hope, whether to share warmth or food or a couple of beers on the beach, it’s part of the shared human experience. We all need it and I believe that need allows people to put aside their differences and return to a simple, instinctual state. I need a fire, you have a fire, let’s be friends. That’s how I see it and how I see Elka’s journey change from an untrusting, feral girl, into one who sees the value and importance of friendship.
Many thanks to Beth for stopping by. I hope everyone is now intrigued enough to read the book! Meanwhile, you can catch up on the rest of the blog tour as detailed below, check out my review , and read Beth's fascinating Week In The Wild posts on her website.