Book Review: History of Wolves, Emily Fridlund
Fiction: History of Wolves, Emily Fridlund
Ask her anything about wolves. After her prize winning project on the History of Wolves, Linda knows the answers. Things she is not as sure about include people. Her classmate, Lucy. Her teacher, who was convicted of having child pornography. Her neighbor, Patra, and Patra’s young son, Paul. Patra’s husband, Leo. These vivid characters fill the life and the imagination of Linda in Emily Fridlund’s amazing book.
Shortlisted for the Man Booker Award, History of Wolves is a coming of age novel. It is beautiful, almost melodic in its prose. Linda lives in a Minnesota full of bugs and humidity during the summer, in a cabin with her parents. They used to be part of a commune, but now only her family remains. Neighbors move in, Patra and Leo and Paul. Leo returns to his job in Chicago, leaving his young wife alone for long stretches with Paul. For help, Patra hires Linda to watch Paul and keep them company.
Fridlund does an amazing job revealing pieces of the story without giving too much away too soon. We learn fairly early on there is a trial involved–but is it related to Lucy and the teacher, or is it somehow related to Patra and Paul and Leo? What is Linda’s involvement in the trial? What crime, if any, was committed? This is not a mystery or a whodunnit, but the techniques used reminded me of that.
Fridlund’s voice throughout the story is clear and crisp. Linda narrates the novel. Her memories of the hockey players and cheerleaders and debate team are vivid and sometimes painful. Linda herself was called “the freak,” and school was painful for her. Watching Paul gave her some escape, but occasionally her behavior toward the family makes the reader wonder whether she is one of the wolves she studied so hard as a child.
History of Wolves is full of pain and longing, beautiful prose, and a breathtaking plot. Emily Fridlund is an author to keep an eye out for, one with a distinct voice and hopefully many more fascinating stories to tell.
At scintilla.info we are happy to get book recommendations, and we want to thank our friend Ned for recommending this book to us. Ned is a local writer who is working on his first novel, and someday we hope to be reviewing it here. For now, though, he has given us a gem to read.