History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund
I finished this book awhile ago now, and have been waiting to write my review - as it is one of those books that has to percolate. The story of Linda, a teenage girl that becomes enamored with the couple who moves in next door and their young son, Paul, the novel focuses on the developing relationship between Linda and this family. But in addition, it also flirts with child molestation and Christian Science. And as you are probably thinking - I am not sure how it all went together.
Let me start with what I enjoyed in the novel - this book is well written. Ms. Fridlund has a way with language that I personally found very moving. I read the novel quickly and enjoyed being in its world. The character of Linda is just plain odd - and I loved that. She was raised for the first part of her life in a compound with a number of families and other children. But at the start of the book, the compound has disbanded and she now lives just with her parents in the home she grew up in with none of the other people. I found this a very interesting background premise for a character and when the author flashed back to her younger life I was fascinated. But my issue was that this was not fully developed out - and I left the book not knowing if the author wanted me to blame her upbringing for the choices she made or not. Was it just something interesting or did she have a real purpose for it.
The book starts with the introduction of a new teacher to Linda's life who helps her develop a project for a local history competition. She focuses on the history of wolves - hence the title of the book. Soon after he starts it is found that the teacher has a pedophilia past, and he quickly leaves.. The book then focuses on a girl who charges the teacher of inappropriate behavior with her, and Linda's desire to befriend this girl. I did not really understand why this part of the book existed, or how it connected to the overall story arc. It was well written, well developed but just seemed out of place.
The main part of the book focuses on the son, Paul, and Linda's relationship with the family. Linda gets a job taking care of Paul during the day while the mother works. It seemed to me as well that Linda fell a little in love with the mother - and that she was infatuated with the life that the family lived and how it was so different from hers. Things change when Paul gets sick, and it is revealed that the parents are Christian Scientists. I don't want to give too much away here - but the author did an amazing job of creating tension between the husband and wife as choices are made about the son and his health. The wife's doubts in her belief system as the situation develops and from the view of a teenage girl. I do not know about Christian Science, so this book taught me some new things.
The book moves forward in time as well and how the events of this time in Linda's life affected her as an adult. The choices she made, and the relationship she had with her parents afterwards. Again it was well written, and I cared about Linda ... but overall, I just did not understand how the book went together. I felt that there was one too many parts in an already very complicated story.
I think that Ms. Fridlund has amazing talent, and I will be reading her next book no doubt. But this novel just made me think and then realize that I didn't get it.
Rating : 3 books