Title: History of Wolves
Author: Emily Fridlund
Publisher: Grove Atlantic
Time taken to read: 4 days
Goodreads synopsis: Linda has an idiosyncratic home life: her parents live in abandoned commune cabins in northern Minnesota and are hanging on to the last vestiges of a faded counter-culture world. The kids at school call her ‘Freak’, or ‘Commie’. She is an outsider in all things. Her understanding of the world comes from her observations at school, where her teacher is accused of possessing child pornography, and from watching the seemingly ordinary life of a family she babysits for. Yet while the accusation against the teacher is perhaps more innocent than it seemed at first, the ordinary family turns out to be more complicated. As Linda insinuates her way into the family’s orbit, she realises they are hiding something. If she tells the truth, she will lose the normal family life she is beginning to enjoy with them; but if she doesn’t, their son may die.
Superbly-paced and beautifully written, HISTORY OF WOLVES is an extraordinary debut novel about guilt, innocence, negligence, well-meaning belief and the death of a child.
I got an ARC of History of Wolves from my BN, or rather my old BN, because tomorrow I start at a new BN in Union Square, New York City. I’ve been living in New York for a week now, and I love it, but I am really nervous for tomorrow!
Anyway, I wasn’t completely sure how I felt about this book as I was reading it, but as I got near the end, I realized that this is kind of a little bit of a literary masterpiece. And I don’t say things like that a lot. I truly felt like this book is a piece of artwork that should be on display in a museum or something. History of Wolves is so complicated and so mysterious. None of the characters were actually likable, including the child Paul, possibly with the exception of Lily, but everyone felt very real. The book is honestly so descriptive and so visual, and I really feel like that will have some influence on my writing from now on because I was really sucked in by the amount of detail that we get in moments that seem so insignificant but actually do so much for the reader. The way the story jumps in time too is really excellent. The whole trial and the science/religion thing was like the best small town gossip of all time. History of Wolves really just makes you think. I don’t know exactly what about. Maybe just life and the way/how much or how little we take in what’s in front of us, and how much or how little we do about it.
This is a debut novel, so I am excited for Emily Fridlund to write more, and I’m kind of surprised this wasn’t picked up by a bigger publishing house. They missed out for sure. I can see this being taught in English classes in college, probably. I definitely recommend this one even if it’s not your usual style because it is really, really well done.