A couple of disclaimers: This is not a story about wolves. Also I may invariably spoil parts of the plot, as I feel the need to talk about the feelings I felt reading this book, and I can’t find a way to do that without disclosing major plot points, but I can comfortably say you should read this anyways because it’s more about the writing and the feelings you get in the book than it is about the plot.
History of Wolves is almost a physcological thriller from my perspective, and perhaps that is most notably because I was raised in Christian Science. I had no idea going into this book that it was going to be about a Christian Science family, but there was a Mary Baker Eddy quote right before the opening page, and I thought to myself, that’s strange to include in this story. Little did I know, this book was going to turn into a thriller.
Madeline goes by two different names, Mattie by her dad and Linda by most everyone else. She’s born in the woods and grows up with her two parents who are retired from the commune they founded, as it dissolved when Linda was a young child. The house nearest to them lays empty until she’s 15, when the Gardner’s move into the home. She knows it was their summer home, but now they’ve come to live there permanently, it seems. How the next events unfold tell the story of how Linda handles the world.
Fridlund tells the story in Linda’s first person past tense narration, and the storytelling truly unfolds in the way that I think. What I mean is, Linda follows the memory in what makes logical sense to her, sometimes thinking about distant past memories or closer memories depending on how things relate in her mind. I’ve heard that some people found this method of storytelling to be sporadic, like Fridlund jumps back and forth in the timeline too frequently without really connecting all the dots. At times it did feel chaotic, however imagine the mind of a 15 year old dealing with all this trauma, or even a 26 year old looking back on her past traumas and talking about the story of herself. I can’t imagine a world in which someone would be so straightforward as to explain exactly where their brain is making connections with their own history. We expect most writers to write clearly enough that we can follow those connections, but sometimes the story needs to feel more chaotic to truly connect us to the protagonist, to get inside of her brain as I felt I was.
The story brought up some personal conflicts I feel with Christian Science, a religion that I grew up in, fears about what could have happened to my peers. The father is a dark and abusive example of the religion, not an example of what most of the subscribers would truly believe or act upon. However, that doesn’t mean that this kind of a story shouldn’t be told. The father is abusive and he is entrenched in Christian Science. His abuse does not stem from Christian Science, but they are entangled to the point where they feed off each other. And it creates a deeply negative effect on everyone around him, subtly stifling his wife and Linda’s very logical fears for their safety.
I’m having a hard time deciding whether or not I liked this book, but I know I would give it four or even five stars because the story and her writing both drew me in so deeply, and I’m left reeling from the after-effects.