Ingrid and the Wolf (2005), by André Alexis

A modern fable, set in Toronto and Hungary.  Young Ingrid’s family lives in semi-poverty—both parents work as servants to richer Torontonians—but when she turns 11, she is contacted by her grandmother, a countess who wants Ingrid to come “home” to her.  Within the realism of familial discord, Ingrid’s own story is archetypal: she must pass three challenges, as all Balazs children have in the past, to prove she is of their “noble” bloodlines, and worthy to inherit the family legacy.  The third challenge involves a labyrinth with a wolf in lieu of the minotaur, beneath the castle foundations.  Ingrid’s simplicity and honour—two characteristics she has inherited from her egalitarian father as well as imbibed from the more humble Canadian setting—help her to not only navigate the maze, but ultimately to release the wolf, who becomes her life-long protector.  In bringing Gabor the wolf home to Canada, caring for him, and learning how to function in society so that he does not threaten those around her, Ingrid grows into a mature, self-assured young woman.  This is truly a coming-of-age story with a difference; would that we all had a castle in Hungary to inherit, noble blood to support us, and a wolf-guard to protect and love us throughout our lives.  But the lessons Ingrid learns are the same as any young girl entering adolescence, and readers will love the blend of fairy tale and realism that Alexis gives us.

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