Strider Wolf was born poor in a poor part of rural Maine. When he was two, his mother’s drunken boyfriend beat him nearly to death. At three, the state placed him and his younger brother in the custody of their grandparents, Larry and Lanette, who were already tired and barely piecing together an existence with odd jobs and whatever money they could make selling junk. In the spring of 2015, when Strider was five, Larry and Lanette were evicted from the cluttered mobile home where they lived. They set out with the boys, adrift in an old camper with no means or ability to find a new place to live.
In the chaos, Strider’s preoccupation and deepest need was to be loved. It is the one thing that could save the boy from the trauma he’d already suffered and from the cycle of poverty into which he was born. Larry and Lanette are hardly capable of giving it as they lead the family on a winding odyssey with no clear end, spellbound by fantastical dreams of a place to call home. We watch as Strider tries, anyway, to wrest love from them.
I won’t belabor the point here– every word of mine is a word that delays you from meeting Strider– but the magic of The Life and Times of Strider Wolf is that Strider Wolf is in all of us. The joy and fear. The uncertainty. The need to belong. This is not a poverty story, though it takes place in poverty, it is a boy’s story. The story of growing up. The story of what you believe in, and what you trust. The story of where you find magic.
We watch as Larry and Lanette, bearing their own childhood wounds, turn their blame upon the rest of the world, and upon the children. But then we also see the woods where Strider and his imagination roam; we see the clear, if grudging, tenderness Lynette gives the boy, washing him before bed with water heated in a Mr. Coffee pot, and the possibility of redemption that Strider seems to offer.
In his journey, Strider’s quest is our hope. We root for the humanity we see in his eyes and sideways grin, and hope that he might be the one, at last, who can find what he needs.