German doctor and inventor, Reinhold Kaletsch, has come to Manitoba for the winter to visit his property near Swan River. Hoping to clear some trees, his plans are suspended when the ice breakup begins and his property is too flooded to reach. Reinhold decides to go exploring instead.
His truck packed full of provisions, Reinhold heads out to investigate the Churchill River System with his two dogs, but an accident leaves his car stalled and his back broken in the middle of the frozen tundra, far away from civilization.
Running out of food, but still needing time to heal, Reinhold must summon the courage to stay alive.
Novelist and editor Wayne Tefs delivers a thrilling novel based on a real-life experience in Be Wolf: A True Account of the Survival of Reinhold Kaletsch. Kaletsch had a taste for adventure, fulfilling his creed: "a life without risks is one not worth living."
"While Tefs does detailed, even spellbinding justice, to the physical realities of Kaletsch's struggle to survive, it's in relating the man's mental and emotional journey that his writing excels and inspires."
- Michael McKinnon, Atikokan Progress
"Tefs grew up in Atikokan, and his understanding of the landscape is as impressive as his interpretation of Reinhold Kaletsch's determination. This is well worth reading and is an excellent addition to Canadian literature."
- Linda Turk, Thunder Bay Chronicle
"Be Wolf is one heck of an adventure story, a gripping tale of how tragedy is only a mistake away... the narrative (is) realistic and immediate."
- Andrew Armitage, Owen Sound
In Be Wolf, "the explorers and homesteaders of the first phase of Canadian literature have now become tourists -- extreme adventurers -- still capable of foolish decisions and an impressive will to survive."
- Brian Brett, The Globe and Mail
Tef's newest work is a "skillful combination" of fact and fiction, a novel that will "keep you up reading until the wee hours...Be Wolf may well become a classic among Canadian survival tales."
- Angela Narth, Winnipeg Free Press
"Tefs' characters are true and honest. They are no different from us."
- Harry Rintoul, Winnipeg Free Press
Suggested Book Club Questions for Be Wolf
- At several points Reinhold Kaletsch says “you don’t have a life if you don’t risk it.” What does he mean, and to what extent can you personally embrace this “philosophy of life”?
- The list of items Reinhold is carrying in the back of his pickup is extensive; what might such preparedness indicate about the journey he planned to make?
- In the Acknowledgements, the author claims that Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe was at the back of his mind as Be Wolf was being written. In what ways are there correspondences between the two narratives?
- The narrative “line” of Be Wolf consists of sections about Reinhold’s experience in northern Canada and others about his experience as a Flakhelfern in Germany at the end of World War Two. What is the point of these two interleaved narratives?
- From time to time the narrative is broken up by brief “essays” on aspects of Canadian natural history. Are these intrusions, or do they add something to the plot of the novel?
- Reinhold’s story is a very masculine tale; and there are few references to women in it. Is this novel too “male” for many readers to enjoy?
- Survival narratives have been de rigeur on television and in print for several decades. How does Reinhold’s survival story differ from those typically presented in poplar culture?
- Toward the conclusion of his journey Reinhold says that he would not have had what happened to him not occur, that he learned a lot from his experience. What might he mean by that statement and what might its application be to anyone who undertakes a foreign journey?
- How would you describe Reinhold’s relationships with his family members and with other people in general? How do those relationships contribute to an understanding of his character and what happens to him in northern Canada?
- Native characters pop up from time to time in Be Wolf. How does Reinhold view them, and what is their larger function in the narrative as a whole?
- How would you describe the relationship between Reinhold and his two dogs? At the narrative’s conclusion, Reinhold’s moment with Blondie is called an “act of love.” To what extent do you agree with that?
- The writer D.H. Lawrence once said that every novel must articulate a “criticism of its central aesthetic.” Do you find such a criticism of Reinhold’s romanticism of the Great White North in Be Wolf?
Wayne Tefs was born in Winnipeg and grew up in northwestern Ontario. He edited a number of anthologies and published nine novels and a work of non-fiction. His novel Moon Lake received the Margaret Laurence Award for Fiction in 2000 and his novel Be Wolf won the 2007 McNally Robinson Book of the Year Award. Wayne Tefs died in 2014.