Review: History of Wolves

by Joli

I bought this book at Barnes & Noble because I had a coupon. I was a kid in a candy store, walking around, picking out a book to buy. I don’t just go out and buy a lot of new books like this anymore, because I just plain have too many books. I try to get as many of my reads as possible from the library. This one, though, was calling my name!

The author of History of Wolves, Emily Fridlund, is Minnesotan. The novel itself takes place in the Northwoods, a large area of the state I happen to love. It’s also a nationwide best-seller and was nominated for numerous awards, so it seemed like just the perfect pick for me.

Although I did enjoy portions of this book, other parts of it just confused the heck out of me. Our narrator, Madeline, is in her teens and transitioning to High School. She lives in a remote cabin, close to a lake. One summer, a family moves into a new cabin on that lake, and she can see it from her own house. Eventually, she meets the mother and 4-year-old boy that are living there.

You soon learn that something has happened in the future, but you don’t yet know what it is. The author gives you glimpses into the future, into something bad happening, but then brings you back to the present, leaving you wondering. I enjoyed this storyline, and was wishing that the book was completely focused on it.

Instead, there are a couple interweaving story threads that just kind of lost me. There’s the story of Madeline’s relationship with her parents, which is just strange and difficult for all involved, and there’s the story of a teacher of theirs who’s found to be a pedophile and fired, who supposedly impregnated a girl in Madeline’s grade.

All-in-all, this book was more confusing and strange than I had hoped. There are a lot of jumps around in time, and it’s not clear which time is actually the present. Normally I like artistic choices like this in my literary fiction, but the narrator in this book had these odd, dark thoughts all the time that just made me make a face and wonder what kind of young teen actually has those kinds of thoughts. They’re just weirdly sexual or otherwise odd, and I just didn’t get it.

I kept reading this book because of the storyline with the family on the lake. It was somewhat suspenseful and kept me reading to find out what happened. To that portion of the book, I’ll give 4 stars. To the rest, though, I just don’t know….maybe a 3.

History of Wolves
Emily Fridlund

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