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'A History of Wolves' Spotlights Loneliness & Connection in Northern Minnesota

Much of writer Emily Fridlund’s new novel, A History of Wolves, plays out in a remote part of a lonely town in northern Minnesota. But anyone who reads it could probably substitute the north woods of Wisconsin as an appropriate image.

Loneliness and connection are two of the central feelings of the book, which is at moments as dark as a north woods' winter. The narrator, a woman named Linda, recounts her teen years. Linda grew up on a commune in the woods, which made her a bit of an outsider in her small town and high school. 

The book deals with the sexualization of teen girls, something Linda was largely able to avoid in her life on the commune. 

"I had read some books about older male teachers having an attraction to these highly eroticized, younger female students, and I was sort of impatient with that trope," Fridlund admits. "So that's part of where Linda came from is just the desire to think through what it might be to have a narrator who's awkward, lonely, and hasn't been transformed into a sexual object like so many teenage girls have been."

Fridlund also specifically chose to have Linda narrate the story as an adult instead of a teenager, not only to give some perspective on the events that unfolded but also to show that time doesn't always lead to understanding. 

"Not everything becomes clear as you grow up and I wanted to make that plain in the book as well. That time certainly changes how we think about the past, but it doesn't always clarify how the past looks," she explains. 

Emily Fridlund will be in Milwaukee to talk about her novel A History of Wolves and her writing, for an event at Boswell Book Company on Friday, January 13.