The main storyline of The Tenderness of Wolves involves the murder of a trapper and shady character in the wilds of Canada in 1867 and the efforts of others to find the murderer. The effort largely seemed to involve tracking through the miserable cold and snow — beginning with the setting off immediately after the murder of a very young man who was the lover of the murder victim, following the tracks of the murderer, followed shortly afterward by his mother with a different man accused of the murder. The mother and accused caught up with the son at an otherworldly Norwegian religious community where they connected with yet another twosome tracking the murderer. Some of the group then moved on to an outpost of the Company (the Hudson Bay Company) where the actual murderer was. Complications ensued. I have just scratched the surface here in the list of characters who each have their own stories.
The story moves along by very short chapters focusing on a particular character, but only the mother speaks in the first person. Only occasionally did I wonder if her thoughts reflect the century and a half that have passed between the writing and the time of the story.
Of the several side stories, the one that left me most uneasy was the disappearance of two sisters that had occurred 17 years before the current story. The parents had died but not before the father had spent his fortune trying to find them. Eventually we encounter one sister who had been taken in by the Indians; it is assumed the other died. That information did not complete the picture for me that had been drawn early in the book.
Another aside was well-described as a MacGuffin by a blogger; the victim had a small bone with mysterious figures scratched on it that one person was convinced was evidence of an ancient written Indian language. The bone was taken by the lover when he came upon the body of the victim. It was eventually lost by his mother in the final struggle with the real murderer. Not important after all.