Tuesday, January 9, 2007

"Call of the Wild" by Jack London

WOW! What a difference the years make. I don't remember liking this book when I first had to read it, which was probably in high school. (And if you can do the math, yes folks, that was quite a few years ago - almost 20!)

I picked up this story yesterday since the paperback I was going to read was in need of some TLC. (In case ya'll didn't know, books can and do fall apart all the time - in the library biz, we try to repair as much as possible). Since I needed to let the glue dry, I thought I'd go back to my 2006 project, which was to start reading some of the classics I'd missed in school (or ones I couldn't remember reading). Enter "Call of the Wild" - short and sitting right on the shelf.

As I said before, I don't remember liking this in school; I think I thought at the time that it was a "boy's book." Well, it might have been then, but it sure isn't now. Buck, the hero of the story, is a mix of St. Bernard and Shepherd. He's been living at the Judge's place in California where he has a good life, fairly comfortable. He is not spoiled, though, as he's quick to point out, not like the two "house" dogs. Enter a gardener with a gambling problem, the Northern Gold Rush, and Buck is being sold to a man with a club. He quickly learns to obey enough to avoid the club. However, he is not "broken" as the man thinks he is. Buck goes through quite a few owners, quite a few pack mates, and wins a fight that places him as leader of his team.

After several years, though, he is wearing down. Not enough rest, not enough food. Then comes the most inept team of gold-seekers ever - two men who obviously have never set foot in the open plains and a woman, sister to one man and wife to the other. She is the most spoiled, prissy character I've come across in a long time. They purchase the tired team and drive them literally to death in their attempts to reach a place to make their fortunes. Buck manages to escape their clutches, thanks to John Thornton, the only man he will ever love.

However, much as Buck loves Thornton, he's begun to hear that call of the wild, and leaves to explore it, a few hours at a time at first, then a day or so, then a week. He comes across a lone wolf who he eventually gets to be friendly with. Tragedy strikes when Buck has been gone too long - Indians have killed Thornton, his two partners, and the other two dogs at the camp. At that point, Buck no longer has any ties to man and gives in to the call of the wild, joining the wolf pack and running free.

It's a great story, and it's really about much more than a mere dog. I can now highly recommend it and am just sorry that I waited this long to re-read it!

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