William Shakespeare fans will see “In the Midst of Wolves” a modern extension of his tragedies. After Karen Kelly Boyce leaves you raw with the cruel machinations of Queen Regina, she soothes her readers with her spiritual insights and wisdom. This FIVE STAR novel will grip both adults and young adult readers. It’s made for discussion groups.
If Lady Macbeth would trade her breast “milk for gall,” so would Regina, “Queen” Kagan— the most tragic figure, in Boyce’s latest novel. Young Regina abandoned her humble beginnings for a status, wealth, and power. She used, discarded, and stood on anyone who could advance her fortunes—her family, her friends, and her true love. She exploited her husband, in-laws, children, and grandchildren as pawns in her quest to gobble-up her longtime business rivals.
Besides Regina’s similarity to Lady Macbeth, shades of other Shakespearean tragic figures populate “In the Midst of Wolves.” Romeo and Juliette, Hamlet and Ophelia, Othello, Iago, Desdemona, Brutus, and King Lear appear in the generations of Kagan family and household members. Regina, the classic “nasty,” dominates and deforms the psyche of her children and grandchildren. She, and sometimes they, with their lies, blackmail, bribery, and intimidation spread misery wherever they go.
Romeo and Juliette, Hamlet and Ophelia, who were likely teens during their tragic years, resemble the younger characters in Boyce’s novel. Parental or grand-parental rejection, bullying and social pressure led the unloved children to seek solace in vengeance and sex. Out-maneuvered, they found that revenge furthered Regina’s plans and that sex wasn’t the love they craved, especially when it led to an unexpected pregnancy and added rejection. They endured the sting of condemnation from the self-righteous who lifted not a finger to help, while committing far more grievous sins.
“In the Midst of Wolves” speaks to the adults of today, reminding them of their power to influence the lives of their children and grandchildren. Adult readers witness Regina and her ilk use their wealth and position to bribe, influence, and manipulate the world around them. Regina reaped gains while she “destroyed” her enemies, among them, members of her household. “In the Midst of Wolves,” explored the evils of too much wealth in the hands of those shockingly devoid of compassion. Adults must set a life-affirming example, especially as the Regina Kagans of the world grow in dominance. The young adult readers will resonate with this tragic tale of the younger Kagans, especially since they experience the same struggles and are prone to the same mistakes.
Since “In the Midst of Wolves” is a YA novel with adult appeal, I could see its wide use in adult and youth discussion groups. Karen Kelly Boyce set the tone for each chapter with a scripture selection, instead of a chapter title. As narrator, she shared meditations rich in wisdom and spiritual life to launch each chapter. This timely, yet classic novel will stand out among recent YA offerings. Boyce dares to buck the trend. She offers her unique and hopeful perspective to modern teens.