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Linda, whose parents are the last holdouts at a failed commune, becomes nanny to an apparently well-educated family who are not what they seem. It's an interesting window into a world most of us only hear about in tabloids.
Enjoyable to read a novel set in Minnesota. The story jumps around quite a bit and seems to lose its way at times. Mild recommendation. Kristi & Abby Tabby
Maybe I've read too many "rural women in peril"* novels recently, but this one just didn't grab me. I found nothing particularly interesting about the narrator Linda or most of the other characters. I kept waiting for the back story of the failed commune to bear fruit, but that went nowhere. Same with Lily, by far the most interesting character in the book. Despite learning about the looming tragedy early in the book, I kept reading in the hope there would be a twist or a development that would pull the different threads together, only to be disappointed. I will say that the author has a poetic gift for writing about nature and our relationship to it.
*(Much better, IMO: "Idaho" by Emily Ruskovich and "The Marsh King's Daughter" by Karen Dione).
This would seem to be a YA novel, but it is not. The narrator looks back on her teenage years, sometimes in fragments mixed with recollections of other periods in her later life, and tells of a tragedy that slowly unfolds -- in direct, explicit terms and sometimes with crude language. As if in deliberate contrast to this, the prose and storytelling are as beautiful and seemingly natural as the snow on the trees and lakes of the Minnesota backwoods setting. The narrative is sometimes (deliberately) confused, lost in a fog of memory, and the characters are enigmatic but drawn in detail, as is the religion that becomes the "villain" in the story. This is a haunting (and sometimes shockingly honest) "history".
A quiet narrative set in northern Minnesota brilliantly juxtaposes the tense, disquieting, and heartbreaking family event that lumbers through a young woman's coming of age story. You won't be able to put it down, but you will be forced to in order to come up for a breath of air.
Atmospheric, bleak, beautifully-written read - with an unpredictable, looming sense of dread. About isolation, belonging, family and coming-of-age. Grab a cozy blanket, a mug of something warm and indulge!
This is a haunting book - recommended if you are looking for something serious and disturbing. It was easy to feel lonely, sad, and confused all at the same time while reading it. I picked up this book knowing nothing about the plot - I thought it would be about someone who lives in the woods with wolves (this book has nothing to do with wolves). I didn't see it heading the direction it did (I try to avoid books with kids dying in them). It is beautifully written in many parts. The subplot with Lily and the teacher wasn't necessary, in my opinion. I'd like to read the author's next book.
This book was short-listed for the 2017 Man Booker Prize but I really can’t work out why. It does well enough as a first novel – and perhaps that is its appeal – but it doesn’t have the depth or skill that I would expect in a shortlist for an award of the calibre of the Man Booker. (That said, the Booker shortlist is not necessarily a fool-proof guide to quality!) Its shortlisting only serves to highlight its shortcomings.
The descriptions of landscape are excellent, especially those of the snow that blankets the lake and isolates them even further. But there are too many themes in the book (belonging, dominance, the distinction between act and intent) and the writer labours them. It’s not a bad book by any means and, indeed, I enjoyed reading it, but the marketing world of the Man Booker Prize has shifted it beyond its grade, and done it a disservice.
For my full review, see https://residentjudge.wordpress.com/2017/11/28/history-of-wolves-by-emily-fridlund/
A rare, intelligent, honest book. It made me think about isolation, the way one person can blind another, about desire and the worlds of guilt and loneliness a person can carry within themselves. I hope it wins the Booker this month!
Compelling, lyrical, and skillfully crafted. The narrative voice is distinct and the story is memorable. Bonus: it inspired me with ideas for my own writing.
A wonderfully written debut coming of age novel about Madeline the 14 year old resident of a former commune and her summer babysitting 4 year old Paul and resulting interaction with his parents Petra and Leo. Lots of great foreshadowing that something terrible happens that summer and the reflections of adult Madeline about the lasting damage.
I did not enjoy this book at all, and was pretty disappointed given the positive reviews I read about this book on Goodreads. I found the story jumbled and not very interesting. There were some interesting points in the book (like the commune she grew up in), but I felt they were skipped over and not given any attention. I did not really like any of the characters in this book. This was the first book that I have read in almost a year where I could not finish it. For about the last 50 pages, I just scanned the book to see if anything exciting happened (it didn't). The synopsis of this book makes it's going to be a huge mystery or a huge turn of events at some point, and I felt it fell flat. This is not a book I would recommend.
This was the most frustrating book I have every read. Most of the first half of the book appears to be setting up the story. There is way too much description and wanderings of the mind. It is like reading a teenage diary. The book begins with Linda's very early teens and after half way through jumps around from her twenties, back to early childhood, teens and then another age intermittently. The main event of the story seems to happen when she is fifteen and Paul should have been five. Yet the consequences of the event occur when they are fourteen and four. Everything is hinted to, jumbled up and never connected. It seemed to me the author was trying to give the reader tidbits of the story for the three different events. I forced myself to read it all hoping to make sense out of it...just like Linda was hoping to make sense out of her life. I found that there is nothing beneficial to the reading of this book.
Part contemporary coming-of-age novel, part suspense novel, and all parts are wonderful! Beautiful language and a fascinating, complicated protagonist.
One of those books you don't forget. Beautifully written, insightful, and haunting in the pursuit of truth.
A teenage loner who spent her earliest years in a failing commune in northern Minnesota is narrator of the story of a school year when Mr. Grierson comes to teach and she gets a summer babysitting job with a new family across the lake.
Fridlund’s debut novel is written with stunning prose and a bit of mystery. At its heart it is a story of triangles beset with outside forces—the teenager, her schoolmate and teacher and she, her charge Paul and his mother Patra. Tragic, beautiful, even if as the Strib’s reviewer said she got a few facts about northern Minnesota wrong.