History of Wolves – Emily Fridlund

Emily Fridlund’s debut, History of Wolves, was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2017 and was the winner of the McGinnis-Ritchie Award for its first chapter. Awards generally mean very little to me because an award is no guarantee of my enjoyment. Just because someone is a NY Times best selling author doesn’t mean they can actually write. cough::Colleen Hoover::/cough

Linda lives with her parents on a lake in northern Minnesota. Once a part of a commune, Linda and her parents are all that remain.

I knew from stories how my parents had ridden in a stolen van to Loose River in the early eighties, how my father had stockpiled rifles and pot, and how, when the commune fell apart, my mother traded whatever hippie fanaticism she had left for Christianity.

The first thing to upend Linda’s life is the arrival of a new teacher, Mr. Grierson who “arrived a month before Christmas with a deep, otherworldly tan [and] wore one gold hoop earring and a brilliant white shirt with pearly buttons.”

Friendless and an outsider, Linda watches and “I wanted him to know that I saw how he looked at Lily Holburn.” The scandal about Mr. Grierson breaks in the fall of Linda’s grade nine year when he is accused of “pedophilia and sex crimes at his previous school and was promptly fired at ours.”

Then she meets four-year-old Paul and his mother, Patra, who have moved in across the lake. Thus begins a long, strange relationship which Linda recounts both as she lives it, but also from an adult perspective several years after the events take place.

At the trial they kept asking, when did you know for sure there was something wrong? And the answer was probably: right away.

History of Wolves is beautifully written, slow-moving novel about family, memory, faith and what it is to leave your childhood behind. Highly recommended.

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