History of Wolves
History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund
Told through the perspective of 14 year old Linda/Madeline, History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund is an incredible first novel filled with emotion, power and depth exploring Linda’s coming of age in a remote community in the northeastern US.
Linda lives in a shack on the edge of a lake in northern Minnesota. The shack is what remains of a commune where Linda spent most of her childhood, until relations among the members became strained and the commune dissolved. Linda and her parents live off the land, away from town, and Linda is often left to her own devices, her parents not asking where she goes or what she gets up to.
Linda is alone, she attends the local school and we learn a bit about her school life, which does not include any close friendships. Her tales of school revolve around her teachers, particularly one teacher who encourages Linda beyond her comfort zone, but disappears later as he is accused of child pornography.
The greatest focus is Linda’s relationship with the new neighbours across the lake, a young couple with a small child. The father, Leo, is often away and the mother, Patra, hires Linda to watch over her young son, Paul. Linda really enjoys the time spent with this family and loves teaching Paul about nature. However, from the start we get the feeling that Paul is not your typical toddler. Patra is very protective of Paul and sometimes snaps at Linda unexpectedly.
The relationship Linda has with Patra’s family is interwoven with stories of her life at school and at home, and show her as an outsider in each, wanting to belong. It is this need to belong that perhaps allows Linda to be unaware of what is really happening to Paul. The reader is as unsure as Linda as nothing is told to us outright, we are continually piecing things together until the tragic end.
The dreamy magic realism writing structure gives the story a surreal feel, but at the same time the characters and action compel you to keep reading to see what happens next. I really enjoyed this story and found it a quick read as I needed to keep reading to find out if my suspicions were correct.
For other popular reading suggestions check out Richmond Public Library’s Web site at www.yourlibrary.ca/goodbooks/.