Mom always said you were a wild child.
Feral, she said. Uncivilized. The kind of kid for whom a layer of dirt was a second skin. The kid who hated anything resembling soap.
As in the new novel, “The Wild Inside” by Jamey Bradbury, you reveled in your animal side.
Tracy Sue Petrikoff’s mother always said Tracy was born hungry.
The 17-year-old often thought of that, of her mother and her accidental death on a ropy Alaska road, two years earlier. Tracy thought about it while she ran; and she thought about it while she was away in the woods, which were like home. She knew the trees there, where to hunt, where to trap, where to find food and shelter, how to keep warm and how to stay absolutely still so she could almost hear an animal think.
She learned to listen, but she didn’t hear the man who attacked her in the woods.
She had her knife with her. She defended herself, but he tossed her aside and she hit her head, blacking out. Later, she made her way home, but she knew she couldn’t tell her father because he would worry and insist she steer clear of "her" woods.
And that wasn’t going to happen, even when the man staggered out of the trees, holding his belly, covered in blood. Tracy’s dad leaped to help the man, Tom Hatch. He would be declared OK at a Fairbanks hospital, but Tracy wondered if Hatch might come back to get his revenge.
She was not going to steer clear of the woods even then, because two or three days of being away from her woods made her physically sick.
And so, she kept her secret about Hatch, just as others kept their silences: her Dad, on the woman he was seeing; her brother, on school bullies; and the teenage boy, Jesse Goodwin, who came from the woods looking for a job and a place to stay.
Jesse, as Tracy suspected, wasn’t who or what he said he was.
And Hatch still was alive.
From the get-go, you will know that “The Wild Inside” is no ordinary novel.
The first thing you will notice is author Jamey Bradbury’s Tracy speaks in a voice that rarely comes from sharp novels like this one: her grammar is lacking, which instantly lends realism to a story that becomes squirmy, even vile in a tauntingly slow manner. Where that eventually leads makes sense-no-sense, perhaps because you will be distracted by a snowy setting that is beautiful, but chilling in more ways than one; still, because of that eerily-calm voice and because of her self-realization, all plotlines lead back to Tracy, who is down-to-earth and hard to dislike.
As the misty plot starts to roil and you begin to realize what really is going on, don’t be too harsh on yourself if you second-guess that fondness.
This is a book for dog lovers. It is a book for Iditarod fans, and it is a book for anyone who wants something creepily different in a novel. And if that is you, then “The Wild Inside” will make you howl.