Cover Image: I Hold a Wolf by the Ears

I Hold a Wolf by the Ears

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Member Reviews

Every story is disturbing and beautiful.

I'd describe this as a cross between the writing style of Marilynne Robinson and the disturbing undertones of Shirley Jackson. The sentences are beautifully crafted. Simple, mundane scenes come to life, then become something else you don't, or shouldn't, trust. Something dark and threatening.

There's a definite theme to the stories but each one stands on its own without blurring into the next. All the stories involve women or sisters in situations that force the main character to face the reality she may not know herself as well as she thinks. Several stories involve reflecting on what the character believed to be true, sometimes that truth had built itself into the character's identity, only to find out it was all lies.

My favorite stories were Slumberland, Cult of Mary, Karolina, and Volcano House. There's something about the stories set in Florida that makes you feel like you're there in the nighttime humidity, desperate to escape.

I received a copy from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Stories: 5 stars
Writing: 5 stars
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I Hold a Wolf by the Ears is a collection of eleven short stories. All haunting, sticky in how memorable they are. They are described in the synopsis as "women on the verge" and I think that's incredibly exact. These women are at a turning point in their lives. By way of remembrance, grief, identity, loss. 

Laura van den Berg's writing is so interesting to read. Many of these stories felt like horror, all of them felt like dark fairytales. Told quickly and with haste, everything is just a little off-kilter each time

I think I want to reread this collection one day, I don't know as if I took every part of it in as much as I could have, I sped through it so quickly. It is very easy to pick up, fall into, and only come back up for air once you're through to the last page. I am going to look into Laura van den Berg's backlist, and I definitely want to read more from her! .
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Utterly unputdownable because the voice of the author will draw you in and hold you hostage until the very end. I thought it would be jarring jumping from story to story but it wasn't. It's a well written story with strong characters that will remain with you long after you finish the last page. Happy reading!
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I read one short story from Laura Van Den Berg's I HOLD A WOLF BY THE EARS every morning for the last week or so as a very moody daily meditation, and it's been a delight. The 11 stories center on haunted women, who live on the edge of some steep cliff and are deciding whether to jump, fall, or retreat. Most encounter the troubles that seem inherent to a life in partnership to a cis het white man -- misogyny, infidelity, attempted murder, poisioning, rape, domestic violence -- while others further take on the challenges of life in 2020 -- mass shootings, Brett Kavanaugh, the gig economy.

In "Pitch," a husband tries to gaslight his wife into thinking a photo of his missing brother is really a photo of a tree -- before disappearing into the pitch darkness himself. In "Your Second Wife," the author meditates on the inhumanity of the gig economy while her protagonist impersonates client's dead wives for a living and nearly meets a nefarious ending herself. And I will never forget "Volcano House," which follows two sisters during a tumultuous trip to Iceland and then, a year later, after one is in a coma. But there were so many rich characters, funky ideas and absolutely wild plots, that it's hard to pick a favorite. Every single one left me feeling a little hopeless, while also exhilarated. 

Thanks to the Farrar, Straus and Giroux, and NetGalley for the ARC.
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I Hold a Wolf by the Ears is a collection of stories from the perspectives of different women.  Some of them have been in abusive relationships, some may seems a little sad, some have lives that could have been my own.  This was my second Van den Berg book, and I really enjoyed it.  It's an easy read, not too much drama, but the drama that is there, is the kind you want to read about.  It pulls you and keeps you held in.  I'll be reading more from this author in the future.


I Hold a Wolf by the Ears publishes 7.28.2020.


4/5 Stars
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"Auribus teneo lupum". Latin for "I hold a wolf by the ears".

To be in a difficult situation from which it is as dangerous to extricate oneself as it is to remain in it. I'm afraid we're holding a wolf by the ears regarding our current healthcare system.

Another way to look at it is "a dilemma that has no easy way out".

Eleven short stories.

All describe dilemmas for which there is no easy way out.

Wonderful in terms of style, content and travelling opportunities. Oh yes, some historical tidbits thrown in for good measure.

I especially enjoyed the VERY unusual occupations described in some of the stories. The travelling to Italy, Mexico and mentions of Florida were also all to my liking.

If you are a short story lover, you will love these. And if you are not, maybe, by reading these, you will become a convert.

5 stars
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a moving, haunting, powerful collection of short stories. i liked best the disorganized nature of each story - they are rarely told chronologically, and take time to sink in - which adds greatly to the air of unease this collection conjures. i don't think i've read anything that made me feel quite like this level of haunted. 

- Nirica from Team Champaca
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𝑻𝒉𝒂𝒕 𝒎𝒂𝒚 𝒉𝒂𝒗𝒆 𝒃𝒆𝒆𝒏 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒔𝒕𝒐𝒓𝒚 𝒉𝒆 𝒘𝒂𝒔 𝒊𝒏𝒕𝒆𝒏𝒕 𝒐𝒏 𝒕𝒆𝒍𝒍𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝒉𝒊𝒎𝒔𝒆𝒍𝒇, 𝒃𝒖𝒕 𝑰 𝒘𝒂𝒔𝒏’𝒕 𝒂𝒃𝒐𝒖𝒕 𝒕𝒐 𝒍𝒆𝒕 𝒊𝒕 𝒊𝒏𝒇𝒆𝒄𝒕 𝒎𝒆; 𝑰 𝒅𝒊𝒅𝒏’𝒕 𝒚𝒆𝒕 𝒖𝒏𝒅𝒆𝒓𝒔𝒕𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝒕𝒉𝒂𝒕 𝒓𝒆𝒇𝒖𝒔𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝒐𝒏𝒆 𝒌𝒊𝒏𝒅 𝒐𝒇 𝒏𝒂𝒓𝒓𝒂𝒕𝒊𝒗𝒆 𝒄𝒐𝒖𝒍𝒅 𝒂𝒄𝒕𝒊𝒗𝒂𝒕𝒆 𝒂𝒏𝒐𝒕𝒉𝒆𝒓.

I have been fortunate in reading stories that hit all the right spots in my mind this summer. People in this collection are coming to the realization there isn’t enough time left for what they want to happen, disputing the stories others tell, disappearing mysteriously in trees, looking for volcanoes, watching the sky, bewildered by middle age as much as by youth, coping with loss and trying to fill their bottomless loneliness.

𝘓𝘢𝘴𝘵 𝘕𝘪𝘨𝘩𝘵: Things feel rotten in these terrible times and for one woman surrounding herself in other’s noise is the only way to survive. But silence is cunning and always finds a way in, forcing her to rehash her troubled, spent youth.

𝘏𝘪𝘭𝘭 𝘰𝘧 𝘏𝘦𝘭𝘭 punched me in the gut, the wonderment and horror of what the universe grants us and the debt that comes with such love. Sometimes life throws everything at us, stripping our every defense, flips the story of our days, and when the universe in all its benevolence showers us with peace, it’s not the kind we wanted. I don’t want to give anything away but it felt brutal to me, it’s the mother/child thing you see, that always rips me to shreds.

In 𝘓𝘪𝘻𝘢𝘳𝘥𝘴, women come forward with allegations against a judge, as the story dominates the news, fury seeps into a marriage as the couple argues about his innocence and guilt. To make things worse, lizards are tormenting his wife by the sheer will of their existence. It is Florida, after-all. When a neighbor tells him about a special drink, he figures it just might help when his wife becomes a little ‘too much’. One of the best lines, “The truth is that she is angriest at her own anger, which she suspects has arrived far too late to be of any real use.” That is a very loaded line, one I think women can relate to. What a writer!

𝘠𝘰𝘶𝘳 𝘚𝘦𝘤𝘰𝘯𝘥 𝘞𝘪𝘧𝘦 is an original tale of impersonation as a business, as a way for grieving husbands to fully understand their deceased wife. It’s one way to join hands with the great beyond. But what about the woman who masks herself to give these men closure?

I found every single story engaging with characters sick of being themselves, earning a living with peculiar jobs, cultivating the ‘wreckage of wrecked lives’ be it their own or that of strangers and inhabiting the border between defeat and hope. My kind of stories. I think I gravitate towards stories about people who are fighting themselves and life. I find myself looking for the same in Non-fiction- struggle, conflicts, how people navigate bumpy roads. There is always dark humor to be found when we’re exasperated. Really enjoyed this collection.

Publication Date: July 28, 2020

Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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This collection of short stories evokes a very particular kind of dream for me - where it appears normal, natural, and you're engaged in something utterly domestic within your dream, but upon waking, you realise everything was slightly 'off', and you are left feeling uncanny and uncertain.
I Hold a Wolf by the Ears expertly portrays vignettes and snippets of normality, that have hints and flavours of the sacred - the moments in time where actions are momentous, and you feel meaning striking deep inside you. 
I recommend one a day with a coffee, when you are open to letting those emotive moments in, letting each of these stories resonate with a similar happenstance in your own life.
Definitely worth the read, to be savoured in bite size chunks, with an unguarded heart.
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This was my first foray into the work of Laura van den Berg, and I consider myself a big fan now. Her stories walk a line between realism and surrealism, just enough strangeness to intrigue the reader and cause them to think differently about what might typically be a mundane situation.  In "Cult of Mary," a daughter takes her mother on a  long-awaited trip to Rome, where stories of witches and a sense of dissatisfaction permeate their journey. In "Lizards," van den Berg takes on the tensions between men & women when sexual crimes are coming to the forefront by focusing on the interpersonal conflict of a husband & wife. In "Friends," a woman who's new to "a medium-sized city" tries to make acquaintances only to end up on a bizarre cross country train trip. Everything in this collection felt relevant and told with a voice that was playful while addressing serious topics.
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Thank you to the author, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

This collection of short stories is a mixed bag, from cool and detached in tone to creepy AF, often with a surreal element involved. The stories feel more or less interconnected, with pivot points being grief, trauma and loss. The women the author writes about are flawed human beings, but I did struggle with her meandering writing style. The origin of the title, which was what caught my interest, is not revealed until the last story - and the meaning is extremely fitting for this collection.
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I'm a fan of van den Berg's atmospheric, mysterious novel "The Third Hotel" and this collection of short stories solidifies my admiration for her style. These pieces, largely centered around women, each tell unique stories (many taking place in Florida) that touch on the disturbing, strange, and darker aspects of many different themes. van den Berg has a gift for conveying complex emotions in tightly packed prose. Dysfunctional marriages, abusive partners, missing loved ones, assumed identities...all are explored in this impressive collection. van den Berg's characters convey the range of human emotions throughout these stories in original ways, all with the undertone of gothic, supernatural elements that are subtle but powerful. One particular standout story is "Lizards" which frankly gave me the creeps throughout.

I would recommend this collection for fans of Kazuo Ishiguro, Karen Russell and Lauren Groff.
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I Hold a Wolf by the Ears is the next great collection from Laura van den Berg. Women, all on the verge of something....death, grief, divorce..... It's all a slice of time in these lives. We are just seeing a section.

Each story is transcendent. van den Berg's writing is transcendent. She cuts to the heart - to the pain. I can not WAIT for her next collection.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for the opportunity to read this book.
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I adored this! These stories were often sad, sometimes creepy, always impeccably structured. Van den Berg tells her stories unchronologically, often circularly, but always in a way that feels very deliberate and I appreciated this. The stories are told with a conscious darkness but never feel hopeless. Van den Berg focusses on characters that seem unmoored but are still anchored by something, often a sibling (I adore this!). Even when the subject matter is dark (and it is!) it never felt gratuitous or unnecessary to me.

I did enjoy the first half of the book more, but even the stories that did not completely work for me were never a chore to read. I am very happy to have two more short story collections of hers ahead of me as collections that work this well for me are rare.
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Laura Van Den Berg completely stood up to my expectations in this collection of short stories. The tone of the book is very interestingly convenient, insistent and sarcastic (which ofcourse the title says out loud) 

There’s something about the short stories that will want you to keep reading more, they are more like a glimpse in a moment of a complete history. My favourites from the book were ‘Friends’ and ‘Karolina’

Overall the book is definitely worth buying
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When I read Laura van den Berg's debut novel, The Third Hotel, the first thing I thought after finishing was that I wish she would write a book of short stories, because I could just tell it would be excellent if she did. Turns out, I was right! I Hold a Wolf by the Ears was phenomenal.  These stories are unsettling, atmospheric, and quietly powerful. van den Berg exerts careful control over her words that lets latent violence creep into many of these stories; it leaves the reader with a magical, eerie feeling that you cannot quite pinpoint. I felt like van den Berg was leading me down a dark road at midnight, but at no point did I ever want to stop. You'll be completely engrossed with this one, I finished it in a day. I'll read whatever van den Berg writes next.
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The narration felt really disconnected in every story. For a few of them I thought that it worked well, but for the most part I didn't like it. A lot of the stories felt pointless to me, maybe because they were too short to really get the point across or that the way the author chose to go about them just wasn't for me.
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In I Hold a Wolf by the Ears, van den Berg approaches the line between the mundane and the surreal but never really crosses it. She just sort of hovers nearby, flirting with it timidly. Nothing really happens in these stories; really, they're stories of anti-happenings, which was disappointing. They are stories of suggestion with no follow through to the actualities of said suggestions. I suppose it was meant to be artistically literary, but I just found this collection to be a bit of a bore and not ready to say anything of resonance.
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It may be the first work I've read by Laura van den Berg, but this collection absolutely gutted me. Almost every story was devastating to some extent, often in ways I wasn't expecting. The stories all feel properly connected and seem like they are occurring in the same universe, happening to similar people. van den Berg allows the women she writes to be flawed human beings and doesn't pull any punches. They do and think bad things, but they're always sympathetic -- and fascinating to read about. There's a lot of commentary on grief, trauma, and gender, and I urge readers to tread lightly and to look up content warnings if necessary. I've included an incomplete list below. On the whole, I was incredibly impressed by this collection and will be looking to read more of van den Berg's work.

-Last Night, 3.5 stars
-Slumberland, 5 stars
-Hill of Hell, 4 stars
-Cult of Mary, 2 stars
-Lizards, 4 stars
-The Pitch, 4 stars
-Volcano House, 3.5 stars
-Friends, 4 stars
-Karolina, 4 stars
-Your Second Wife, 4 stars
-I Hold a Wolf by the Ears, 3.5 stars

average: 3.77 stars, rounded up to 4

content warnings: sexual assault; loss of a loved one; domestic abuse; mass shootings; miscarriages; kidnapping; attempted suicide.
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This short story collection, "I Hold a Wolf by the Ears" really blew my expectations. I've never read anything from Laura van den Berg before so I wasn't sure what to expect. What a pleasant surprise! I absolutely love her writing style. Such beautiful and vivid imagery. The dialogue is crisp and the characters are multi-dimensional. There's 11 stories in total, and I can honestly say there's no filler here. Even the short stories like, "Cult of Mary", and "Friends" delivered on every level. A lot of the stories deal with grief and trauma like, "Last Night", "Slumberland", "Hill of Hell", and "Volcano House". Rich in emotion and sentiment which isn't easy to do with short narratives. Some stories are eerie and delightfully weird like, "The Pitch" and "Lizards". My favorite story is "Karolina" - about a woman who stumbles upon her ex-sister-in-law living on the streets in Mexico City. I highly recommend this intelligent and entertaining book!

Thank you, Netgalley and FSG for the digital ARC.

Release date: July 28, 2020
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