History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund

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Jill's take on History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund

I’m not sure why I find it so funny when I am half way around the world and something from Minnesota pops up into my consciousness. I am always shocked when people in (what I consider) far flung places have ever even heard of Minnesota. And so it was with great surprise that I found History of Wolves at a bookstore in Taipei.

History of Wolves tells the story of a young girl growing up in a small town in northern Minnesota. Her family life is less than ideal and very less than traditional and she finds herself wanting to belong to another kind of life. So when a young, mysterious family builds a cottage across the lake from her family house, she becomes entwined in their lives.

This family is strange from the outset. The author creates an environment where you, as the reader, are expecting something bad to happen the entire time you are reading the book. I read and read trying to anticipate which character would have bad things befall them. I was right and not right all at the same time.

There’s an apathy in this book that is palpable. Then there’s pure neglect and ignorance. This is all wrapped around a young woman who feels isolated from just about everything and is willing to overlook so much just to feel included.

The setting provides the perfect backdrop for this isolation. Having lived in Minnesota myself, I could feel what the author was talking about. I have been there myself. Feeling included and not included all at the same time. Feeling the harshness of my surroundings and feeling confident in my ability to withstand them. Trying to fit in with others but always remaining on the fringe.

History of Wolves is a beautifully written novel. I found myself shaking my head with some of the descriptions as though I was listening to a good friend talk about her experiences. Even if they were a little fucked up. 

Zac's take on History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund

The tension in this novel is palpable. You just get the sense that at any moment, something bad is going to happen, you just don't know when or what form it will take.

And you have plenty of options to choose from, although the real answer takes time to come to you, just as it does for the main character who is both at the center and at the periphery of the drama. I think it's about 100+ pages before there is any indication of what is really about to go down. It's brilliantly executed and evocative and well worth the time and effort to read it.

I was really surprised to find that this was her first novel. You feel that you are really in the hands of a capable and seasoned writer that you trust and know. I really can't wait to read more of her work, even though it's slightly disturbing, albiet in a good way.