Fourteen-year-old Madeline, who is called Linda, or Commie, or Freak at school, has grown up in Loose River, Minnesota, the Walleye Capitol of the World, a place where the summer tourists crowd a very small one street town. Her parents and several other families arrived in the early 1980's as a group, in a failed attempt to create a communal family. Long ago the others have given up, leaving Linda, her mother and father living in a tiny cabin, where Linda sleeps under the loft rafters. Only the new teacher tries to call her Mattie; and without hesitation she introduces herself as Linda to the new Gardner family, who have built a beautiful house across the lake.
Linda's layers of isolation become clear, from kids at school, from her own parents, and even within a comforting and beloved land saturated with forests and lakes. It's her new, and increasingly troubling, strange interactions with the teacher and the Gardners which confuse and transform her. The new family--Patra, her four-year-old son Paul, and her husband Leo--are the center of Linda's story. Fridlund has given her main character a strong, steady voice as she moves through her teenage life one step at a time. Linda has the recognizable thoughts of a teenager, with a direct honesty that made me feel proud of her. I wanted to hear what she had to say, even as her story began to make me afraid and sad.
Fridlund has a remarkable ability to show how the smallest details and changes in people and places can cause sudden, unexpected emotional shifts; and she folds events from different points in Linda's life, ranging from a very young girl to a women in her thirties, into a narrative somehow made clearer by the time changes rather than confusing. History of Wolves was as compelling as the best books I've read this year. Fridlund's debut as a writer is exceptional.— Tim McCarthy
"So delicately calibrated and precisely beautiful that one might not immediately sense the sledgehammer of pain building inside this book. And I mean that in the best way. What powerful tension and depth this provides "--Aimee Bender Fourteen-year-old Linda lives with her parents in the beautiful, austere woods of northern Minnesota, where their nearly abandoned commune stands as a last vestige of a lost counter-culture world. Isolated at home and an outlander at school, Linda is drawn to the enigmatic, attractive Lily and new history teacher Mr. Grierson. When Mr. Grierson is charged with possessing child pornography, the implications of his arrest deeply affect Linda as she wrestles with her own fledgling desires and craving to belong. And then the young Gardner family moves in across the lake and Linda finds herself welcomed into their home as a babysitter for their little boy, Paul. It seems that her life finally has purpose but with this new sense of belonging she is also drawn into secrets she doesn't understand. Over the course of a few days, Linda makes a set of choices that reverberate throughout her life. As she struggles to find a way out of the sequestered world into which she was born, Linda confronts the life-and-death consequences of the things people do--and fail to do--for the people they love. Winner of the McGinnis-Ritchie award for its first chapter, Emily Fridlund's propulsive and gorgeously written History of Wolves introduces a new writer of enormous range and talent.
About the Author
Emily Fridlund grew up in Minnesota and currently resides in the Finger Lakes region of New York. Her fiction has appeared in a variety of journals, including Boston Review, Zyzzyva, Five Chapters, New Orleans Review, Sou'wester, New Delta Review, Chariton Review, The Portland Review, and Painted Bride Quarterly. She holds a PhD in Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Southern California. Fridlund's collection of stories, Catapult, was a finalist for the Noemi Book Award for Fiction and the Tartts First Fiction Award. It won the Mary McCarthy Prize and will be published by Sarabande in 2017. The opening chapter of History of Wolves was published in Southwest Review and won the 2013 McGinnis-Ritchie Award for Fiction.