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Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2016-10-03
- Reviewer: Staff
In Fridlunds stellar debut novel, 14-year-old Linda, an observant loner growing up in the Minnesota woods, becomes intrigued with the Gardners, the young family that moves in across the lake from her home. As she gets to know them, she realizes that something is amiss. Having been raised in a commune by unconventional parents, Linda is prone to provocative statements and challenging authority. Shes also fascinated by the scandal that occurs when Lily Holburn, a student at her school, accuses a teacher, Adam Grierson, of inappropriate behavior but then recants her testimony. At the same time, Linda forges a friendship with the comparatively worldly Patra Gardner and her endearing four-year-old, Paul, whom Linda babysits for a summer before his sudden and mysterious death. Matters take a curious turn once Patras husband, an older man named Leo, returns after months away at work. Fridlund expertly laces Lindas possessive protectiveness for Patra with something darker, bordering on romantic jealousy. A sense of foreboding subtly permeates the story as Fridlund slowly reveals what happened to Paul. Her wordsmithing is fantastic, rife with vivid turns of phrase. Fridlund has elegantly crafted a striking protagonist whose dark leanings cap off the tragedy at the heart of this book, which is moving and disturbing, and which will stay with the reader. Agent: Nicole Aragi, Aragi Inc. (Jan.)
An icy literary thriller
Like many coming-of-age stories, History of Wolves features a grown-up narrator looking back on an event in her teenage years that forever changed her belief in the way the world works. The brilliance of this novel is that the events that ruined Madeline, aka “Linda,” are so appalling that they may change the way the reader believes the world works as well.
The story opens in the middle of a typically punishing Minnesota winter; the superbly talented Fridlund makes you feel the cold in your joints and imagine the sound of a knock on the crust of ice over a snowdrift. Linda lives with her hippie parents in such poverty that they not only lack central heating but a door: Only a tarp stands between them and the cold.
Then a new family moves into a new house across the lake from Linda: Leo and Patra Gardner and their little boy, Paul. Linda is taken on as Paul’s babysitter. To the perceptive Linda, they are just a shade off normal, which entices her because she’s just a shade off normal herself. But soon the reader, with a skin-crawling dread worthy of any decent slasher movie, begins to realize that something’s more than just not right. You only hope that it’s not what you think it is.
But learning that it’s not what you think it is brings no relief, because what is really going on is ever so much worse. When what happens happens, you want to stop and go back to the beginning of the book to search for the clues you knew had to be there. You’ll find them.
Fridlund earns a place as a top-notch writer with this remarkable, disturbing debut.