Let me begin by saying this…
Emily Fridlund’s novel History of Wolves is not about the history of wolves. Yes, there is some wolf talk in the story, but you will not learn anything about the specific behavior of wolves. So, if wolves are your thing…this book may or may not be for you.
Linda is a fourteen-year-old girl who has a perplexing home life with her parents. They live in an abandoned cabin that used to be part of an old commune community in Northern Minnesota. She attends school, where she is an outsider. Her peers tend to either ignore her or make fun of her for being such a peculiar individual, often calling her a “freak”.
She is an only child and seems to be completely oblivious to any form of social skills with other individuals, whether they be students or even teahers. Her understanding of the world seems to come only from her experiences with the people around her. She’s intrigued by a girl named Lily, who often ignores her, and a new history teacher, Mr. Grierson, who takes an interest in her.
Mr. Grierson sets up a “History Odyssey” (a tournament/science fair or sorts) and invites Linda to be a part of it. Linda spends time outside of class with Mr. Grierson and decides to do her speech on “The History of Wolves.”
We soon find out that the teacher has a past dealing with child pornography and Lily has accused him of behaving inappropriately with her. The implications of the teacher’s arrest deeply affect Linda and her perspective on human relationships. She retreats to her home and works with the family dogs during the summer months.
During her second year of high school, a new family, the Gardners, moves into a large home across the lake from Linda’s house. At first, it’s just the mother and her son (Patra and Paul)— the father/husband is away for work. Linda becomes close to Patra and Paul, and babysits Paul almost daily. She finds this “normal” family refreshing and innocent. When Leo, Patra’s husband, does come to stay, Linda realizes that the family has a secret that they are hiding. If Linda tells the truth, she may risk losing the only few human relationships that she has been able to make. But, if she doesn’t….something terrible might happen.
Emily Fridlund has a masterful way with words, no doubt, her writing is beautiful.
“Winter collapsed on us that year. It knelt down, exhausted, and stayed.”
From the very beginning I could literally feel the anticipation building. I just knew something was going to happen, yet the shock factor was still there when it did. This is a eloquently written debut novel with a fascinating story.