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History of Wolves: A Novel by Emily Fridlund
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History of Wolves: A Novel (edition 2017)

by Emily Fridlund (Author)

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3232634,306 (3.61)1 / 76
Member:technodiabla
Title:History of Wolves: A Novel
Authors:Emily Fridlund (Author)
Info:Atlantic Monthly Press (2017), Edition: 1st Edition, 288 pages
Collections:Read but unowned
Rating:****
Tags:read

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History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund

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Showing 1-5 of 26 (next | show all)
With the blurb as a guide, I wouldn’t have spent my hard-earned on Emily Fidlund’s debut novel History of Wolves, but the publisher offered it to me and I thought, why not?

It turned out to be a monumental disappointment. Not so much in terms of the novel itself – but because it’s shortlisted for the Booker and some part of me still expects the Booker shortlist to deliver something important or significant or memorable or original. And History of Wolves is not any of those things. It’s the story of a misfit teenager *yawn* who fails to understand adults *yawn* and finds her own relationships handicapped ever thereafter *yawn* because she is damaged *yawn* by her experience and lets it control her destiny. She’s just unlucky she can’t sue someone because of it…

It is Madeline/Linda/Mattie’s misfortune to be raised by ex-hippie parents who are not very interested in her. Her mother thinks she should be grateful for the beauty that surrounds her in the backwoods part of Minnesota but Linda feels the poverty. She gets a hard time at school.

Into this loneliness comes a family and Linda becomes a babysitter to the precocious child Paul. It’s not a spoiler to tell you that the child dies, and that there is a trial afterwards because this is revealed very early in the novel. (The chronology chops and changes but surely this is not what the Booker judges thought was original?) So the reader doesn’t have to be very smart to guess at why there is a trial, especially not when a quotation from Mary Baker Eddy signals it right at the beginning of the book.

To read the rest of my review please visit https://anzlitlovers.com/2017/10/17/history-of-wolves-by-emily-fridlund/ ( )
  anzlitlovers | Oct 16, 2017 |
I really loved this book. The oppressive sense of foreboding just grew and grew until you could hardly stand it and HAD to know what was going to happen. Though of course it had been pretty clear all along what was going to happen, just not why or how. I enjoyed reading about the lifestyle in a place so different from my own home too. Just a great read. ( )
  technodiabla | Oct 12, 2017 |
I had to force myself to keep reading through the first third of this novel. The writing feels overly self-conscious and I wasn't convinced that it was in character. There are two storylines, one involving Maddie/Linda's schoolmate and a teacher, the other involving a mother and child who come to live near Linda in the woods. The two parts don't cohere and it's not clear where anything is going. But then Leo, the father, shows up, and things start to fall into place.

The book is about so many things, too many really, because Fridlund can't quite bring everything together. But the themes are important and her approach to them is unusual. The teacher-student relationship, the role of religion in Leo and Patra and Paul's lives, Linda's relationship with her parents, all of these are written beautifully the the twists and turns in each storyline are unexpected.

Other readers have said it's a story about loneliness, which it is, as well as about how parents shape their children's lives and options (also true). It's also about power and gender, although again, not in the obvious ways.

I'd call this an ambitious, interesting failure. Failure because it doesn't come together, and the emphasis on atmosphere and style at times undercuts the power of the characterizations and thematic through-lines. But it's well worth reading. I haven't read such a powerful, thoughtful novel on religion and autonomy in years. ( )
  Sunita_p | Oct 1, 2017 |
Told from the perspective of a 14-year-old girl growing up with hippy parents in the north woods of Minnesota, this novel's main story line is that of a young Christian Scientist family with a very sick four-year-old boy. Madeline's young life becomes intertwined with that of Paul and his parents, Leo and Patra, as she herself is struggling with coming of age issues: sexuality, attachment, ambivalence about her peers, a hunger for adult role models who don't let her down.... We learn early on that Paul dies, but the story of how and when this happens, and Madeline's involvement and the internal chaos this creates for her, emerge slowly through the second half of the novel. This isn't a morality play and the question of parental ethics in the face of an ailing child is not Fridlund's concern. Rather, Fridlund is interested in the impact of this ethical ambiguity on the emerging consciousness of a young girl. It's a great premise delivered by a promising author.

The descriptions of the woods are memorable and Madeline herself is an unforgettable character. But the storytelling is uneven and the side-plot involving a teacher accused of sexual misconduct with a student never cements, never feels compelling or true (and I don't mean true as in "did he do it?" -- in some ways, that is irrelevant to the thread or the meaning, but true in its emergence in Madeline's consciousness). Madeline is satisfyingly complex; her character development is the cornerstone of the novel and it deserves critical praise and attention. But this novel is not Booker short-list worthy, in my opinion. ( )
4 vote EBT1002 | Sep 27, 2017 |
Unpopular opinion: I didn't like this book. The writing is ..fine. The plot is mostly non-existent. The stream of consciousness style doesn't bother me, but other than the bits that are clearly foreshadowing, it doesn't seem to be meandering its way to anywhere. The opening chapter, which won an award on its own, is much more compelling than the rest of the book but also entirely unrelated to 90% of the rest of the book. This was definitely a 2.5 star read for me. ( )
  KimMeyer | Sep 7, 2017 |
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