This book is originally titled ‘Mano vardas – Marytė’. The translated book can be found here.
Ŝlepikas has written what I would deem a short novel; but definitely not sweet. Before that puts you off, this book was also a Times Book of the Year for 2019, so even if it isn’t gentle, it may be a book to read.
If you do not know this Lithuanian author, he apparently is multi-talented: writing and directing for films; a poet; and a playwright. In this book, he has written an historical work that has been influenced by a couple of ‘wolf children’ themselves who wanted the world to know what it was like for them in post-war Prussia after World War II.
‘In the shadow of wolves’ follows the Schukat family and their lives in Prussia after World War II. It does not follow all their lives equally, and for most of the novel, it focusses on Renate. However, it looks at post-war conditions, issues with World War II, how children feel and survive during these times and what it is like for ‘wolf children’.
As an historical note, and for some background; ‘wolf children’ are children who have found themselves alone in east Prussia and have had to do many things in order to survive. Outside of this novel, if you would like an historical article for reference, you can visit National Geographic’s article here.
The plot may sound very singular, but the focus is on the gritty reality of trying to survive. In fact, it appears this is the most important part of the writing in order to help readers come to know the truth of what post-war situations can be like for children: a part of history that might not be well known by many. If you are looking for in-depth character creation or emotional tugs towards one human protagonist or another, you probably won’t find that here.
Ŝlepikas does not shy away on details of what can happen to humans and humanity during times like those. It is gritty, raw and very, very real. However, it is an important story to tell. As the writer has gone to great lengths to find stories to incorporate into the novel, it also makes it more authentic. If this is too difficult, particularly where it comes to children, probably skip this book.
But people should be aware of such histories.
Links for you:
Usually I do Readers’ Advisory here; however, Ŝlepikas has no other works in our library and there is not, as far as I can find, any nonfiction specifically on the wolf children. So, I have created a list of fiction and, mostly, nonfiction information and biographies that relate to children and their family’s experiences during World War II or afterwards.
Anonymous Members of the Kovno Jewish Ghetto Police
Kazimierz Sakowicz and Yitzhak Arad