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History of Wolves: A Novel Hardcover – January 3, 2017
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An Amazon Best Book of January 2017: History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund is exactly the kind of book you want to curl up with in the winter. It’s propulsive, vividly written, laced with a razor’s chill and filled with imagery that’s impossible to forget. There is a constant sense of foreboding, of wondering when the truth will crash through the Minnesota ice. Linda is a loner, a teenage girl who walks to school and lives on a failed commune in the woods. But her life of solitude cracks open when her history teacher—whom she fantasizes about—is charged with child pornography. Outside of school, Linda begins to spend time with a young boy and his mother who moved into a house across the lake, but their family, like her teacher, are not as they appear. Fridlund masterfully ratchets up the tension, exploding this story of secrets and girlhood with crisp, cutting prose that will leave you shocked and in awe. A remarkable novel, that just so happens to be a debut, by a fiercely talented writer. --Al Woodworth, The Amazon Book Review
* #1 Indie Next Pick
* A Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Selection
* One of USA Today’s Notable Books
* An Amazon Best Book of the Month
“An artful story of sexual awakening and identity formation . . . a novel of ideas that reads like smart pulp, a page-turner of craft and calibration.” ―New York Times Book Review
“Electrifying . . . History of Wolves isn’t a typical thriller any more than it’s a typical coming-of-age novel; Fridlund does a remarkable job transcending genres without sacrificing the suspense that builds steadily in the book . . . [it] is as beautiful and as icy as the Minnesota woods where it’s set, and with her first book, Fridlund has already proven herself to be a singular talent.” ―NPR
“A compelling portrait of a troubled adolescent trying to find her way in a new and frightening world.” ―People magazine, one of Five Best New Books
“The chilly power of History of Wolves packs a wallop that’s hard to shake off . . . an elegant, troubling debut, both immersed in the natural world but equally concerned with issues of power, family, faith and the gap between understanding something and being able to act on the knowledge.” ―Los Angeles Times
“Starkly affecting . . . one of the year’s most lauded debuts.” ―Entertainment Weekly
“This captivating debut from a prodigious new talent injects taut suspense into a teenage girl’s awakenings as she confronts a web of mysteries in the chilly woods of Minnesota. A lavishly written novel with more than a glimmer of dread.” ―O Magazine, one of 10 Titles to Pick Up Now
“Imagine one of those twisty ‘Girl’-titled mysteries in the hands of a great stylist. Fridlund’s debut is something like that, but better . . . an indelible story of fascination and dread.” ―New York magazine
“My, what big fictional teeth Emily Fridlund has.” ―Vanity Fair
“[An] exquisitely observed, quietly affecting debut novel . . . an absorbing contemplation of guilt and regret, agency and its abdication, and what it means to survive the wilderness.” ―Boston Globe
“Ominous, evocative . . . [Fridlund] writes with immediacy and precision.” ―Seattle Times
“Profound and disturbing . . . a tragedy of Shakespearean scope.” ―Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Lyrically written . . . [it] keeps surprising to the end.” ―St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“Hypnotic . . . brilliantly crafted . . . atmospheric and chilling.” ―Missourian
“What’s astonishing about History of Wolves is its confidence, how little it reads like a first novel. It’s assured in the slowness with which it gives up its secrets. Fridlund ratchets up tension with surgical precision . . . Even when the sun is shining at the height of Minnesota summer, it’s a haunted, wintry tale of innocence lost.” ―Arizona Republic
“Impressive . . . Fridlund has superb control of her first-person narrator and of the ‘show, don't tell’ rule, so the reader must listen carefully, looking for clues.” ―Sydney Morning Herald
“[An] unnerving, beautifully crafted first novel.” ―The Millions
“Intricate, beautifully written . . . The book smolders with moral tension, enriched by Fridlund’s subtle eloquence.” ―National Book Review, one of Five Hot Books
“Exactly the kind of book you want to curl up with in the winter. It’s propulsive, vividly written, laced with a razor’s chill and filled with imagery that’s impossible to forget. There is a constant sense of foreboding, of wondering when the truth will crash through the Minnesota ice . . . Fridlund masterfully ratchets up the tension, exploding this story of secrets and girlhood with crisp, cutting prose that will leave you shocked and in awe. A remarkable novel, that just so happens to be a debut, by a fiercely talented writer.” ―Amazon Book Review
“With her debut novel History of Wolves, Fridlund might well find herself literary fiction’s newest golden girl . . . Its otherworldly winter escapism is just right for midseason stir crazy, and a dose of crime drama in the book’s second half grounds enough for wider readability, with Fridlund’s observation on childhood, religion and family reaching a climax in the final chapters . . . Supple fiction formed in able hands, History of Wolves delivers Emily Fridlund to the doorstep of literature’s beau monde.” ―National Post
“Fridlund’s writing is fluid and at times arresting . . . This is a smart, tense and very sad novel, lovely to read but also heartwrenching.” ―Bookreporter
“Fierce. Mesmerizing. Dazzling . . . [A] magnificent debut novel.” ―Bustle
“Beautifully written and intense.” ―Virginia Pilot
“History of Wolves is so observant, so compassionate, so fresh that it can hold its own among the best of more established writers.” ―Shelf Awareness
“This book walks a fine line between fiction and thriller―readers are sure to feel a pit deepening in their stomachs as they turn its pages. Rural Minnesota winters will take on a profound darkness in this gripping tale.” ―Bookish
“[A] stellar debut . . . A sense of foreboding subtly permeates the story . . . [the] 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.” ―Publishers Weekly (starred boxed review)
“The writing is beautiful . . . a triumph of tone and attitude. Lovers of character-driven literary fiction will embrace this.” ―Booklist (starred review)
“An atmospheric, near-gothic coming-of-age novel turns on the dance between predator and prey . . . Fridlund is an assured writer . . . The novel has a tinge of fairy tale, wavering on the blur between good and evil, thought and action. But the sharp consequences for its characters make it singe and sing―a literary tour de force.” ―Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“[Fridlund is] a fine writer.” ―Library Journal
“‘Winter collapsed on us that year. It knelt down, exhausted, and stayed.’ So much is accomplished here, not least a kind of trust that this writer will make everything count, including the kind of data that is usually left for dead in a story. What is literary authority, after all, but the ability to regularly, without apparent effort, make the most of every sentence, build feeling in every line and do it in such a way that is tough, tight, funny, and often brilliantly disruptive?” ―Ben Marcus
“So delicately calibrated and precisely beautiful that one might not immediately sense the sledgehammer of pain building inside this book. And I mean that in the best way. What powerful tension and depth this provides! I’m so excited for readers to encounter the talent and roiling intelligence of Emily Fridlund.” ―Aimee Bender
“As exquisite a first novel as I’ve ever encountered. Poetic, complex, and utterly, heartbreakingly beautiful.” ―T. C. Boyle
“So compelling, so filled with tension that I could not stop reading. A first novel this good gives me such incredible faith in the literary world that this young talent will bring us readers more and more of this exquisite prose and choice of words. She gets this close with sexual tension and then moves away in a way that allows you to let your breath out. And Paul, the innocent in this whole mess, is a victim but are the others as well? I love this so much!” ―Annie Philbrick, Bank Square Books
“A punch to the heart lies at the center of History of Wolves―a punch readers may not see coming until some critical point when they look up from the page and realize what Fridlund has been doing to them all along: setting them up to knock them down. Hard. In this tremendous debut, she writes with unbelievable craft and depth of feeling about girlhood, sexual awakening, guilt, belief, and above all, the shattering limits of faith. The result is a novel of huge power, one destined to be among the most talked-about of the season.” ―Brandon Stout, Changing Hands Bookstore
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Top Customer Reviews
"After another half hour, clouds hunkered down over the treetops, and a breeze nicked the lake's surface, giving it the look of old skin....I beached the canoe, and shunted it discreetly under a balsam fir. Then I set down the asphalt streets, which disintegrated into the front lawns of prefab houses. All of them, white, aluminum-sided. All of them: bookended, with porches and two-car garages, crowned with satellite dishes, fronted with pickup trucks...." "After dinner I sometimes took the canoe out and lingered after dark--especially on overcast nights, especially after nine, when twilight finally halved, and then halved again, sliding the sky through epochs of orange, then epochs of blue and purple."
Other reviewers have written that they are not sure what the novel is about. But what may appear muddled very appropriately reflects the musings of an adolescent trying to make sense of her world. A common theme runs through the seemingly disconnected subplots: what is more important, our internal "truths" or our external reality? And are the consequences of our actions judged by our assumptions or our intentions, or even by whether we are reactive, proactive, or passive? There is much to ponder here, both from the point of view of a teenage girl, and from her grown-up 37 year old self...and the two are not much different. One lingering question is, do we really mature with our passing years? Those who felt puzzled by the novel might benefit from a second read after knowing where the story ultimately goes. I, for one, am tempted...even though I rarely read anything twice. But this one was such a rich and engrossing read that I might just turn back again to page 1--if only to re-experience Ms. Fridlund's exquisite prose.
Madeline Furston is fascinated by the study of wolves and no wonder. At 14 years old, she is living in a failed commune with a father who is “kind to objects” and a mother who means well but hasn’t quite mastered her nurturing instincts. An outcast in her north Minnesota school with a keen sense of woodland survival instincts, she tries to make sense of the world – particularly a possible tryst between her history teacher and the class beauty, Lily.
When Patra – a 20-something-year-old mother – and her toddler son Paul move nearby, Madeline seizes the chance to become involved. She renames herself Linda and becomes an unofficial governess. But something is not quite right with the scenario. Little hints are dropped that could easily fly by (for instance, why is the 4-year-old still wearing a diaper?) but Linda does not have the social skills to decipher what is going on. And when Patra’s controlling and charismatic husband, Leo, arrives, tension really begins to build and yet it’s unclear as to why.
This debut book succeeds on so many levels. The questions at its core are: What’s the difference between what you want to believe and what you do? And what’s the difference between what you think and what you end up doing? At our hearts, are we all children? (Emily Fridlund writes, “By their nature, it seems to me, children were freaks. They believed impossible things to suit themselves, thought their fantasies were the center of the world. They were the best kinds of quacks, if that’s what you wanted – pretenders who didn’t know they were pretending at all.” What happens when our beliefs become so powerful that we become, without intention, freaks?
There are many ways that these themes circle and enfold upon each other and to get into that too deeply would be to create spoilers. I will say this: Emily Fridlund is a true master at ratcheting up tension, creating a compelling atmosphere, staying in control of her themes, and ultimately, unraveling what it means to be a misunderstood predator-of-sorts. The writing is downright gorgeous. This is the real deal. 5 strong stars.
Linda watches the world around her, and observes the people inherent. Lily the pretty girl at school, and the new family across the lake in their new house. She meets these people, Patra the wife and mother, Paul the four year old son and Leo the father who is away most of the time. This is a family like no other, and they open their arms to Linda. At school, Linda is studying the lives of wolves as a special project for a teacher. And, as you might guess, this is the great analogy for this novel.
Told in spurts as a 14 year old, then as a young woman and then mature woman, Linda gives us her life. We are not privy to any straight forward discussion, but a mix of this and that, and then the reveal in bits and pieces. Not much in this novel is as it appears, but it is so well told. Many of the critical reviews call the prose in this book, 'razor sharp', all crisp words with imagery revealed.
Recommended. prisrob 01-25-17
Most Recent Customer Reviews
If you were to tell me that you got lost in this novel, I would have to agree with you.Read more