Despite the snow in early October, we made it through this week without any flurries. It's actually beautiful running weather today-- sunny and almost 50 degrees. Relatedly (is that a word?)-- I'm becoming one of those Minnesotans who talks about weather all the time. I notice that I bring up the weather when I'm trying to make myself comfortable around new people. It's like a password to the hearts of strangers: if I mention "the weather," I brand myself as one of them, as someone to trust. I thought about this a lot last week because History of Wolves takes place in Northern Minnesota (in a tiny, fictional town called Loose River). The winter weather in Loose River is obviously horrendous (there's usually about 3 feet of snow on the ground, encased in roughly 3 inches of ice). Fridlund's characters talk about the weather a lot. This is not surprising as the author herself is from Edina, MN. She's also a St. Olaf grad (Carleton Admissions made a mistake if we passed on this lady in an Edina docket). All this to say, it's apparent in History of Wolves that Fridlund has had plenty of practice talking about Minnesota weather.
Perhaps the first thing to mention here is that History of Wolves is the author's debut and it has been wildly successful by most any metric. Fridlund actually found out that her book was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize while she was in labor with her first child (for some reason I love this piece of trivia-- at the moment she brought her debut child into the world, her debut novel received one of the literary world's highest honors #winning). I read History of Wolves really quickly-- it is a true page turner. The novel chronicles a traumatic summer in the life of a teenage girl, Linda, who lives in the woods of Northern Minnesota. There are two different plots running simultaneously here. The first follows Linda's increasingly strange infatuation with a creepy teacher at her school. The second, and far more interesting, plot chronicles Linda's relationship with the new family across the lake. On the first page of the book, we learn that one of the new neighbors dies and Linda later speaks at a trial related to the death. For the rest of the book, the reader attempts to piece together both the circumstances of death and the extent of Linda's involvement. I honestly can't figure out why Fridlund stretches herself across these two (largely unconnected) plots? I don't think it works particularly well. Yes, I understand that Linda's obsessions with her teacher and her neighbors are both a product of typical teenage angst / loneliness, but that's hardly enough to tie these stories together. I would recommend reading History of Wolves for the second plot line alone though--really thought provoking and creepy.