History of Wolves is the story of a lonely teenager, living in a remote part of Northern Minnesota. It’s all forests and lakes. Linda, lives with her parents in a cabin, the leftovers from a hippy commune that broke up while Linda was much younger. Her parents don’t interact with her much and she’s left to her own devices for the majority of the time. She ranges freely though the woods and kayaks around the lakes when she feels like it.
Linda is an outsider at school. She becomes the interest of her, repulsively described, new history teacher, Mr Grierson – he encourages her to enter a history competition, and here she completes a piece of work called the History of Wolves. She becomes interested in trying to interest him, and grooming of various types is a theme throughout the book. He rejects her advances, but soon has to move away over a scandal involving another student, and he spends some time in jail for sex offences. Linda continues to be interested in Mr Grierson, and she follows his movements via a website tracking sex offenders. Linda seems to be disturbed by his rejection of her.
Linda notices a family moving into a cabin across the lake, and she becomes a babysitter for their four year old son, Paul. His mother, Patra, is often alone with Paul as his father is an astrophysicist often away working in Hawaii.
During the first half of the novel there are a few hints that not everything is quite right in the cabin across the lake. There is mention of a trial, and Paul says something strange about God…
At the trial they kept asking, when did you know for sure there was something wrong? And the answer probably was: right away. But that feeling faded as I got to know him.
Linda is telling the story in History of Wolves from later in her life, when she is 30. We find out a bit about how her life has turned out. The effects her mentally absent parents have had on her. How the events of the novel have affected her. As well as being about how people can be influenced, and grooming, it’s about responsibility. It’s clear that an adult grooming a child is completely wrong, but what about when an older man seems to influence a younger woman, even if she is an adult? If a child knows about something going on that they feel uncomfortable about, how responsible are they for it? what if they are 15? It’s also about religion, and belief.
It’s not what you think but what you do that matters.
I really liked History of Wolves. It is shocking, and horrifying, and really makes me wonder about Emily Fridlund’s experiences that led her write to this book! I think it was a very deserving Man Booker Prize shortlisted book. I’m going to be thinking about it for a long time. I’m very deliberately not giving away any spoilers in my review, but come back to me when you’ve read it so we can talk about it properly, ok? and just in case you didn’t realise from the rest of the review, you won’t find out anything about wolves from this book!
P.S. I was provided with a copy of this book by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thanks NetGalley!