I am not a fan of “coming of age” novels. I have already come of age and that road was rough enough for me. History of Wolves opens with a hauntingly beautiful description of Northern Minnesota, marred by the decrepit remains of a defunct commune. The last family on the commune, an eccentric and pseudo-functional couple, has a 15-year old daughter, Linda. She is angsty, an outcast at school with few friends. Linda is desperate to be out of her house as much as possible and is able to get a babysitting job with a mother, Patra, and 4 year old son who live across the small lake.
Fridlund subtly hints of a sexual awakening in Linda. She has a fascination for a student who, allegedly, has been molested by a teacher (although it turns out not to be true). She also develops a “crush” on Patra – and on one occasion sleeps closely next to her and kisses her.
Hmm. So far I was skeptical – reads like that coming of age genre. I was soon to be surprised. Linda’s meets Patra and her 4 year old son, Paul. They are on vacation across the lake. Patra hires Linda to babysit Paul and, later, the dominating father joins them at the lake. The novel takes a chilling twist, as we are drawn into Linda’s discovery of parents who neglect their child in an unimaginable way. Linda must confront her complicity – and guilt. She is now adrift from her own family – as well as her new “adopted” one – when Patra places the blame for the tragedy on her.
History of Wolves raises questions about wrenching decisions made in a religious context (to explain it in more detail would give the story away). Don’t expect a happy ending here. Fridlund leaves the reader with an ethical conundrum – and with Linda who, left on her own to move into adulthood, is irreparably damaged.
Staff of Wellington Square Book Shop