History of Wolves

288p. Atlantic Monthly. Jan. 2017. Tr $25. ISBN 9780802125873.
RedReviewStarWinter falls hard in northern Minnesota. So 14-year-old Linda watches with interest when, months before the thaw, a young mother and her son return alone to their summer house across the lake. Linda is drawn into their lives when the mother, Patra, asks her to watch four-year-old Paul while Patra edits manuscripts. Linda is deeply affected by the intensity of Patra's care for Paul, so different from the nonchalance of her own mother. The teen is an untamed storyteller, and her past and present swing about as she interrupts one plot thread in pursuit of another, as if the emotional connections among events supersede chronology. A succession of days spent with Patra and Paul veer into a deluge of memories from Linda's childhood in a commune or recollections of her former history teacher, who may have molested a classmate. Fridlund's crystalline descriptions keep the narrative focused, but nearly everything else in the book, including Linda's true name, is subject to interpretation. The author foreshadows tragedy, which arrives with the unimaginable brutality of a Minnesotan blizzard.
VERDICT Teens who appreciated the natural settings and poetic writing of Ron Rash's The World Made Straight and The Cove or the stylistic complexity of Louise Erdrich's The Round House will love this one. This strikingly original tale, so rooted in its natural setting, will captivate readers with a penchant for powerful, unorthodox prose.

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