The Settlement is a community of about 100 people who live outside of the view of the rest of America, tucked away on a patch of land near Egypt, Maine. This curious collective, the focus of Carolyn Chute’s latest novel, Treat Us Like Dogs and We Will Become Wolves, is not altogether unlike the one inhabited by Chute herself. The author and her husband live off the grid in Parsonfield, Maine, where they run the 2nd Maine Militia and rely on the community around them for sustenance.
In Treat Us Like Dogs and We Will Become Wolves, the story pings from one character to another so often that icons and an appendix help readers keep tabs on who’s who. Those notations are also a helpful reference for those who have read Chute’s previous novel in this planned “four-ojilly,” The School on Heart’s Content Road, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. Those who haven’t yet dived in shouldn’t worry, though; in a brief foreword, Chute notes that each of these four books will stand alone, with some characters playing more prominent roles in one story than another.
Ivy Morelli takes center stage here. She is determined to uncover the truth about charges of physical and sexual abose that tipsters have lobbed at Gordon St. Onge, the charismatic heart of the Settlement. The 20-something reporter tails St. Onge with dogged determination, noting his every move as well as details about who he’s with, what he’s wearing, even whether or not his companions are buckled up as she tails them in a car.
Chute’s odd cadence makes for a memorable read, her stories unfolding like a train of thought. Fans of the author’s previous work will find much to like here, as Chute dives into St. Onge’s mysterious dealings while leaving plenty to ponder in the series’ two forthcoming books.