Saturday 4 February 2017

HISTORY OF WOLVES by Emily Fridlund

Even a lone wolf wants to belong... 

Fourteen-year-old Linda lives with her parents in an ex-commune beside a lake in the beautiful, austere backwoods of northern Minnesota. The other girls at school call Linda 'Freak', or 'Commie'. Her parents mostly leave her to her own devices, whilst the other inhabitants have grown up and moved on. 

So when the perfect family - mother, father and their little boy, Paul - move into the cabin across the lake, Linda insinuates her way into the family's orbit. She begins to babysit Paul and feels welcomes, that she finally has a place to belong. 

Yet something isn't right. Drawn into secrets she doesn't understand, Linda must make a choice. But how can a girl with no real knowledge of the world understand what the consequences will be? 

I grabbed this book yesterday because I wanted to get a feel for it... and I couldn't put it down.

Madeline, Linda or Mattie--different people call her different names--is a teenage girl who lives with her parents in what used to be a hippie commune. She's lonely, doesn't fit in, and has a real problem voicing her real thoughts. She spends a lot of time in the woods, with her dogs, on the lake and watching people. 

When a young family moves in across the lake, she finds herself befriending them. She meets the young mother, Patra, and her little boy, Paul. While the father is away, Linda burrows her way into the family by becoming the boy's babysitter. The little kid is smart, yet odd and sometimes doesn't seem healthy. At the same time, Mattie closely observes the case of a new teacher being accused of sexual misconduct by a classmate. 

After tragedy strikes, Mattie starts to wonder how much responsibility she really holds in the awful events unfolding around her... 

What a story! Yikes. Talk about getting totally lost in the innocence of a young girl one second, and then feeling totally creeped out because of the disturbing nature of her thoughts. There are so many ups and downs in this book, and I couldn't help but wonder if she was intentionally lying or just couldn't remember the events right. Mattie comes across so severe that I started thinking she was a bit of a sociopath one minute, then started feeling sorry for her the next. She's an unloved girl, so desperate to belong that she'll do and say just about anything to fit in. Sometimes, even her silence is her way of expressing how much she wants others to really see her. 

Her family life is unconventional. She's disconnected from her parents, doesn't really get along with either of them, and often tries to make the reader believe it's them ignoring her. But it soon becomes obvious that no matter what her mother tries to do to engage her, Madeline just isn't interested. And I believe that this especially becomes apparent later in the book. It's just so amazing how much I cared about this story even though I didn't like the main character. That's quite the talent! 

Also, the story is told in a very odd, but awesome, way. It starts at a particular point so that you instantly know a certain character, not yet introduced, is already dead. And that grips you, keeps you glued to the mystery. It also time jumps, feels almost like her thoughts are so jumbled that she goes all over the place. BUT, that's the best way to tell this story. It just feels SO right! 

History of Wolves is an atmospheric story. It's also quite disturbing, and has a main character that's both unreliable and unlikeable. Yet, in spite--or because--of these two things, she's so compelling that I couldn't put the book down. It's also a beautifully written book. I loved how things aren't spelled out, so the reader needs to work through what's going on and come to their own conclusion--especially when dealing with the ending. 

This is such a unique story. One that stayed with me even after I finished. Loved it! 

History of Wolves, January 2017, ISBN 9781474602952, W&N

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