Jack London’s The Call of the Wild has been on my radar for as long as I can remember, and for as long as I can remember, I’ve always been hesitant to read it because of the whole animal cruelty thing. But I’ve been quilting up a storm over the summer while listening to audiobooks, and I discovered that Jeff Daniels narrated one of the many versions of this novel that exist, so I finally dove in.
The book is told from the perspective of Buck, a loyal dog in a wealthy Santa Clara family. He’s obedient in his role as the family’s protector, and he has never known cruelty. But it’s the turn of the century and the gold rush is exploding in Alaska. Large dog breeds are in high demand and Buck is kidnapped and sold up north as a sled dog. There, he faces the brutality of being broken in and learning his place within his new pack.
It’s a hard life that’s filled with exhausting cross-country travels, beatings, and starvation. Buck and his pack pass hands several times, sometimes with knowledgeable and fair handlers and other times with dangerously inept settlers who have no idea what it takes to survive in Alaska. Yet through it all, Buck acclimates quickly. His survival instincts kick in, and not only does he figure out his place, he wants to be the leader. In his travels, he hears the call of the wild and the howls of the wolves, and he constantly feels pulled toward it. His past life of domestication is slipping away for good.
The Call of the Wild is pretty much exactly what I imagined a Jack London book would be like. It’s about a dog, but it’s very much in the vein of those man vs. nature books about overcoming the harshest obstacles imaginable and coming out of it a real alpha. And yet? I really enjoyed it. I think Jeff Daniels was a great choice for a narrator, and the story itself was fast-paced and filled with adventure.
The Call of the Wild was originally published in 1903. I listened to the 2010 audiobook version.