Review: History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund

Screen Shot 2017-03-08 at 5.26.22 PMThis winter I’ve made a habit of attending book readings to keep myself entertained, so in January I headed up to Prairie Lights with some of my high schools students. Emily Fridlund read from her book History of Wolves with the cadence of a poet; her words drifted from her lips with a smooth, alto tone so lilting that I dreamt of sitting there for hours like a child.

And I’m not super fond of the “reading” portion of book readings, mind you.

Alas, she moved on to the book’s premise, and she discussed her novel’s attempt to address a young girl who’s manipulative instead of the victim, using her life and her connections to make the world turn in her favor.

Yet, after reading her novel, I’m not certain that’s what I read.

For more about History of Wolves, published by Atlantic Grove Press in January 2017, continue. 

I found Fridlund’s writing to be superb; I must say this from the start. Not only was her reading voice like hearing a child’s lullaby, but the words themselves are succinct and gripping in a way not often found in prose (again, there’s poetry to be found among her paragraphs).

However, the consistent and brief vignettes from vastly different time periods are, at times, a catalyst for motion sickness. I was often being pulled to such different time periods in such a short span of pages that I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to have learned. Characterization is vast in this novel, and I understand vignettes play a huge role in that set-up; however, there are more than fifty pages of this book that I’m not certain I needed.

And I can’t even say that for sure because I’m not certain what I needed.

I’m not certain what I learned.

There are sections that detail a tragic death of a young boy that she helped babysit between her freshman and sophomore years of high school. There are sections about a girl she went to school with having a relationship with a teacher (yes, the connections to this topic are starting to become too habitual in my reading… I swear it’s purely accidental). There are other sections that detail Christian Scientists, and still more that detail her life in her twenties and (I think) her current life in her thirties. I do know it takes place in Minnesota, so at least I have that.

Overall, this book leaves me impressively confused. I’d like to focus on the impressed part, but I’m not. I have a masters degree in English, so I’d like to think I know a thing or two about literature. By no means am I delving in to the legitimacy of her writing–for that is unnecessary, as it’s beautiful–but I am truly unaware of what she intended to do with the premise of her text.

I’d like to know. And if you’re up for it, I’d like for you to tell me. SOS.

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