I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.
The classic tale of Little Red Riding Hood gets a new take when poetry and perspective shine a light on Red and those she interacted with on that fateful night in author and poet Luanne Castle’s “Our Wolves”.
In Our Wolves, poet Luanne Castle navigates the timeless story of “Little Red Riding Hood” in a compelling collection of sharp, memorable poetry. Familiar tales are ageless for a reason. Their magic is that they can easily be transformed to explore subjects of abuse, danger, sexuality, self-sufficiency, and interpersonal relationships in a way that makes these challenging topics palatable to readers. Trying to find the reasoning behind Red’s traumatic adventure, as well as using it to comment on contemporary events, Castle creates taut narratives and sympathetic monologues to show how the story shapeshifts with the teller. Here, we hear from the wolf, the huntsman/woodcutter, Grandmother, townspeople, and Red herself. Not just a victimized or innocent child, Castle’s Red also appears in wiser (and sometimes older) incarnations that are knowing, rebellious, resilient, and clever. This technique subverts stereotypical conventions and shows that Red’s story “is not so very different from yours / and yours and yours and yours and yours.” Filled with atmospheric power, dynamic portrayals, and bright imagery, Our Wolves will haunt you long after you’ve returned from its woods.
Christine Butterworth-McDermott, author of The Spellbook of Fruit & Flowers
In this recasting of the Little Red Riding Hood tale, Luanne Castle’s wolves are not the wolves skulking in our imaginations. Her poems challenge our senses, bounce from view to view, shifting their focal points. Grandmothers and red-coat-wearing girls may or may not bear guilt. Indeed, Granny may be the Wolf. Or the Wolf may be a father, pulling down panties to slap bare skin. The story is told “to search / for who, not why. It’s all about blame.” Which is, of course, only one truth lurking within this fable. The poems in Our Wolves burrow under your skin and into your flesh. They don’t let go, no matter how you scratch; they’re unsettling, magical. Relentless. Unforgettable.
Robert Okaji, author of Buddha’s Not Talking
“Perhaps you were wrong.” In these imaginative and evocative poems, expectations are subverted, and flat, centuries-old characters are brought to life in both amusing and startling ways. Castle tells the old story of Red Riding Hood from new angles and perspectives, creating a multitude of responses from the reader, eliciting from us everything from moments of cringing to laughter. Most interestingly, Castle subverts the predictable and achieves complexity by using an unlikely combination of forms and mixed modes–from the more traditional lineated lyric and narrative poems to the unexpected Haibun and Abecedarian, using every technique available to create this lively and memorable book. These poems invite us to confront what we take for granted and then let loose our own inner wolf to bite in and savor them all–one well-crafted word at a time.
Kimberly K. Williams, author of Sometimes a Woman and Still Lives
This was a memorable and heartfelt collection of poems. The author does an incredible job of finding the right balance of storytelling through the poems themselves to tell this reimagining of such an iconic fairytale and highlighted the rich themes found within the poems with powerful imagery and insightful tones that kept the reader grounded in the magical reality they were weaving together.
The heart of the author’s work rested in the moving themes the poems played with and the folklore that the author drew upon to weave this tale. The poems hit upon things like identity, staying true to oneself, honesty, and overcoming our fears in life, and the way the author was able to write these poems in a way in which the audience was able to see themselves in one form or another through these varied perspectives was memorable, to say the least. The way in which the reader is treated to the perspective of the Wolf, Grandma, and of course Red herself allowed for readers to connect more with the major players of this tale and the struggles each and every one of them held onto until the bitter end.
Heartfelt, memorable, and captivating, author Luanne Castle’s “Our Wolves” is a masterful and engaging poem collection. The imagery and atmosphere that each pome conjures up and the rich dynamics each perspective brings to the narrative of Red Riding Hood made this a truly thoughtful and relatable collection that readers won’t soon forget. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!
About the Author
Luanne Castle lives in Arizona, next to a wash that wildlife use as a thoroughfare. She has published two full-length poetry collections, Rooted and Winged (Finishing Line Press 2022) and Doll God (Aldrich/Kelsay 2015), which won the New Mexico-Arizona Book Award for Poetry. Kin Types (Finishing Line Press 2017), a chapbook of poetry and flash nonfiction, was a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award. Our Wolves (Alien Buddha Press 2023) is her second chapbook. Luanne’s Pushcart and Best of the Net-nominated poetry and prose have appeared in Copper Nickel, American Journal of Poetry, Pleiades, River Teeth, TAB, Verse Daily, Saranac Review, and other journals.
Luanne blogs at Writer Site and The Family Kalamazoo.