Tuesday, December 13, 2022


Christiane M. Andrews grew up in rural New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine and still calls northern New England home. Her debut novel, Spindlefish and Stars, received starred reviews from Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, and Booklist, and was named a Kirkus Best Book of 2020 and a Booklist Editors’ Choice for 2020. A longtime writing and literature instructor, Andrews lives with her husband and son and a small clutch of animals on an old New Hampshire hilltop farm.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Wolfish, and reported the following:
On page 69, the reader finds Rae, one of the four central child characters of Wolfish, entering her home. She is mud-stained, her hair tangled and “full of seeds and stray insect wings.” Her adoptive shepherd mother, Ness, is concerned Rae has been wandering too far into the hills and fields, saying, “You should not stray so far away from the house. What would you do if you saw a wolf or a herd of boar and you were all alone?” Though Rae is certain she would be saved by her parents—“I would call for you and Mop!”—the aged Ness better understands the danger: “‘Do you see me’—Nessa gestured to her soft body—‘chasing down a bear to rescue you from its claws? Or do you see Mop—ah, here he comes!—fighting a horde of snarling boar to save you from their tusks?’”

The Page 69 Test for Wolfish is mixed, I think. On the one hand, casual browsers could sense the foreshadowing here and guess that Rae does in fact encounter both wolf and boar in the text. They would also gain a window into her fierce attachment to the natural world: she explores everywhere alone and returns home stained with her adventures. (As the text ties each of the four central characters to a different element, Rae frequently appears, as she does here, speckled with “airy” things like insect wings and seeds.) The loving relationship Rae shares with her adoptive parents—who long to keep her safe—would similarly be clear to anyone opening to this page.

However, perhaps because the text alternates through four different perspectives—a king, an oracle-apprentice, Rae, and her twin—I don’t think browsers would gain a good sense of the central conflicts of the novel nor see why—beyond potential bodily harm—it’s significant that Rae might encounter a wolf. Those reading through to page 69 will know Rae, who was abandoned in the wilderness as an infant with her twin, has already been saved once from a wolf when Mop discovered her mountainside. Readers will also have just seen her twin, who was not rescued, mystically transformed into a wolf a few pages earlier and understand this is the creature she is fated to meet again. Casual browsers, I think, would have a hard time gaining an overall sense of the novel from just page 69, but skimming around that area might be enough.
Visit Christiane M. Andrews's website.

The Page 69 Test: Spindlefish and Stars.

--Marshal Zeringue