Tag Archives: Emily Fridlund

Book Club Reflection: History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund

19 Apr

My book club met last week to talk about a book I really enjoyed, History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund. The consensus was that we liked the book but it wasn’t what we expected. The title and the first few chapters gave us a different sense of what we would read than the rest of the book delivered. The young protagonist gave the sense at times that this might be a YA novel, but the themes and writing were clearly not YA. Fridlund has said in an interview that she likes writing the YA perspective but that it didn’t mean her books were YA novels.

The structure of the book was somewhat unusual. We know from the first few pages that Paul will die. The story is like a mystery because we’re trying to figure out why and who. Knowing that he’s going to die gave the whole book a sense of foreboding that kept us on our toes. We kept waiting for it to happen and we didn’t know if he’d be attacked in the woods or fall into the water on a canoe trip. It also made Linda seem sinister. She always seemed a little off and while I personally doubted she would hurt Paul, it made me feel like she’d be complicit somehow. In a way, she was. A bit.

The book was split into two sections, Science and Health. The titles seem to come for the Christian Science text, the book of Science and Health. The book also had two plot lines which some of us struggled with (see my review for my personal grievances). We talked about how they were intertwined. The biggest was grappling with action versus inaction. In both cases, there was someone who felt guilty for doing nothing. Linda struggled with feeling that she should have done more to help Paul. Mr. Grierson struggled with convictions for something he didn’t do but thought of doing. They both felt guilty. When Linda is angry after the trail, she wants to lash out at Patra but she can’t. Instead, she thinks of lashing out at Lilly. The two plots also played with the idea of the predator being prey. While Leo seems like an alpha male predator, he also suffers the death of his son. While Lilly is the teenage girl who ends up ‘in trouble,’ she also ruins Mr. Grierson’s reputation and gets him sent off to jail. The punishment in the two plot lines contrasts as well. Both the Gardner’s and Mr. Grierson did nothing wrong. However, Mr. Grierson’s other crimes were dragged up and he ended in jail. The Gardner’s inaction resulted in their son’s death and they didn’t serve any criminal charges. Christian Science convictions of negligence have varied by state, per one of our group members. In another state, it might have ended differently.

Linda’s home life did not prepare her well for the life she experienced with the Gardners. She finally felt loved in their home and she felt like Patra needed her. She was afraid to act against Patra because she didn’t want to be rejected from the first place she felt loved. Linda was an outcast at school and since Tamika left, she hadn’t had a female friend. She was so desperate to be Patra’s friend that at some points, we wondered if there was anything sexual between them, but ultimately decided there must have been just Linda’s lack of understanding. Linda’s relationship with her mother seemed strained as well. After the trial, the emotional turmoil Linda had to go through, her mother wouldn’t comfort her. We debated if they were really related (we don’t understand the beliefs of their commune very well) and if her mother was mentally stable. The anecdote of her living in the shed for a winter doesn’t emphasize sound judgment.

For anyone interested, I do encourage you to look up a bit about Christian Science. There was some confusion in our group about the differences between Christian Science and Scientology. They are quite different!

We’ll meet once more in May before taking a break for the summer. I always miss these fine folks during my summer adventures!

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

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Book Review: History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund (4/5)

10 Apr

I love when my book club picks amazing books that I’ve never heard up but end up loving! This was one such example. I don’t think I’d heard much about this book until it was on our list and I always try not to read the summaries or read reviews before I pick up a book because I love figuring things out with the characters and not having a surprise ruined for me.

Cover image via Goodreads

History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund

Summary from Goodreads:

Fourteen-year-old Madeline lives with her parents in the beautiful, austere woods of northern Minnesota, where their nearly abandoned commune stands as a last vestige of a lost counter-culture world. Isolated at home and an outlander at school, Madeline is drawn to the enigmatic, attractive Lily and new history teacher Mr. Grierson. When Mr. Grierson is charged with possessing child pornography, the implications of his arrest deeply affect Madeline as she wrestles with her own fledgling desires and craving to belong.

And then the young Gardner family moves in across the lake and Madeline finds herself welcomed into their home as a babysitter for their little boy, Paul. It seems that her life finally has purpose but with this new sense of belonging she is also drawn into secrets she doesn’t understand. Over the course of a few days, Madeline makes a set of choices that reverberate throughout her life. As she struggles to find a way out of the sequestered world into which she was born, Madeline confronts the life-and-death consequences of the things people do—and fail to do—for the people they love.

Madeline was a great character to tell this story. Because of her strange parents and childhood, she’s an outcast and she approaches everything with skepticism. Even the normal, she’s wary of. So her wariness around Mr. Grierson and around Patra seem equally rooted. After seeing that there was something off about Mr. Grierson, you start to wonder about Patra. The plot is layered well and there are inklings of things that could go wrong early on. Nothing too telling, of course, but just enough for you to wonder why the Gardners were living in a small town.

I felt the schoolchildren were the most realistic to me. They reminded me of classmates in high school who were mean to the weird kids and quickly forgot anyone who left no matter the reason. There were concerned with themselves only and didn’t care about what happened at other people’s homes behind closed doors. It was easy to see how Madeline could sneak through school like she was watching it instead of participating.

Patra was my favorite character. She seemed stuck between a rock and a hard place and was doing the best she could. She loved her husband and, of course, she loved Paul. The dilemma of the whole story could be summarized as the decision Patra had to make. I have a very close friend who practices Christian Science and it’s something we’ve talked about and I know was a point of contention with her spouse when they talked about marriage and a family. It’s a belief that’s not easy to stand by in today’s society and I can see the moral grey space that Patra fell into as a result.

It was easy to relate to Madeline because she seemed to be watching things happen around her without taking much action herself. I think that’s why the ending with her in Duluth didn’t do much for me. I didn’t really care what happened to her but I needed to know what happened to Mr. Grierson, Lilly, and Patra. Madeline had to react to what happened around her but she didn’t play much of a role in the plot which made her a good narrator. She reacted in many of the same ways I would have. I don’t meddle much in other people’s lives but I watch, much like Madeline did. Does that sound creepy? I hope not.

Emily Fridlund
Image via Goodreads

I liked the trial. It was interesting to see what Madeline was going to lie about and how she always admitted she was lying. The truth was revealed over such a long time and in such small glimpses that I didn’t know what was true for a long time and things came out at the trial (Patra seeing medical help) that I’m glad weren’t revealed because Madeline shouldn’t have known them. Fridlund did a great job of letting the reader discover the truth at the same pace Madeline did.

I didn’t like the Lilly sub-plot of the book. Reading the interview in the back of my copy, it sounds like a scene with Mr. Grierson and Lilly was the inspiration for the book. I understand wanting to leave that in because it inspired the book, but I felt it detracted from the Gardner plot line which in itself was a great book.

Christian Science can be a grey area for those who do not practice it. Is not seeking medical attention when someone requires it neglect when it’s a religious belief that’s being followed? I thought this was a great question to bring up and I think Patra’s uncertainty added to the plot and the grey-ness of the questions being posed. I’m not going to take a stand here. All I’ll say is that I’m a strong believer in religious freedoms and not imposing the moral values of one religion on another person who believes in a second set of values. It becomes hard when the lines are fuzzy and I think that’s when it’s necessary to listen instead of preach.

Writer’s Takeaway: Having a lead character who watches the main action happen was an interesting way to tell the story. It was nice to have an unbiased opinion of what was happening and I think that was key to the debate that came as a result of the Gardners’ story. Not every book needs an unbiased narrator but it worked well in this case. I think books about other hot-button issues could benefit from the same technique.

A good read that kept me entertained and made me think. Four out of Five stars.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Related Posts:
History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund | Maurice on Books
History of Wolves ~ Emily Fridlund | Gives This Book Some Love
History of Wolves, by Emily Fridlund | Something More
History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund | the owl on the bookshelf
Emily Fridlund’s History of Wolves – a slow unfolding unease | Books and Wine Gums

WWW Wednesday, 4-April-2018

4 Apr

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community.


Currently reading: I’ve started back up with Harry Potter y las Reliquias de la Muerte by J.K. Rowling. and I’m so excited to read about the Battle of Hogwarts! I think this one will be wrapped up soon.
I’ve just started back up with The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp so I hope I can get some momentum going on this one and wrap it up in a few weeks!
I’m enjoying The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah but it has yet to stand out to me as a unique WWII book. I’ve read so many in the past few years that I was afraid this would happen. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a surprising development.
The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro is going okay. I wasn’t expecting this to be as magical and as strongly metaphorical as it is. I’m not sure I’m enjoying it as much as Ishiguro’s other books but that’s a high standard to meet.

Recently finished: Two finished and it feels so good! The first was The Circle by Dave Eggers which I stayed up late Thursday to finish. I was expecting the end, so that didn’t blow me away, but it made me think to be sure. I gave it 4 out of 5 stars and I’ll be posting a review next week.
I finished History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund on Friday and, again, the ending wasn’t what I was anticipating. I thought it was going to be a little more sinister than it ended up being. I have a lot of thoughts on this topic so it will make for a good book review and a good discussion group.

I posted my review of Son of a Witch by Gregory Maguire yesterday so please check it out if you can. I gave it 1 out of 5 Stars, which I believe is my lowest rating on this blog.

Reading Next: I’m already looking forward to Drop Dead Healthy by A.J. Jacobs. I hope to finish Potter quickly so I can get started on this fun read!


Leave a comment with your link and a comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 28-March-2018

28 Mar

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community.


Currently reading: I’m still on hold with Harry Potter y las Reliquias de la Muerte by J.K. Rowling but not for much longer! I’m speeding through my other books and I think I’ll be back to this one next week.
I’m much further into The Circle by Dave Eggers than I’d thought! I pulled out my physical copy to see and I’m in the last third of it for sure. I’ve been making an effort to pull it out more often in the past week and I think I can wrap it up pretty soon.
Still holding on The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp though I think I’ll start again soon!
I’m loving History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund. It’s creepy enough to keep me reading but not so much that I’m afraid to read it before bed. The perfect mix. This will be a fun one to discuss.
As much as I complain about being in the middle of two books, I’ve started two more. The first is, as expected, The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. I started it during my long run on Sunday and got through a fair chunk. I’m really looking forward to seeing why so many of you loved this book!
The second is an audiobook for the car and this time around it’s The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro. This is available as a CD audio so I’m starting it in the car. I heard Ishiguro read a chapter from it a while back and I know it’s going to be a bit more fantastical than I’m used to with him, but we’ll see how this goes.

Recently finished: The tidal wave is starting and I finished two books! The first was, as expected, Pigs in Heaven by Barbara Kingsolver. I took a homework break on Friday and finished up the last 20 minutes. I adored this book and I posted my review yesterday if you want to check it out. I gave it 5 out of 5 Stars.
The second was Son of a Witch by Gregory Maguire which I finished Sunday. I honestly couldn’t wait for this book to be over. It wasn’t what I expected and I found the plot meandering and without a focus. I got sick of the politics because I wasn’t invested in the characters. I think it’s safe to say I’m done with this series.

Reading Next: It seems strange to think of more books to read with so many going already! I guess I’ll need a physical book next and it’s time for me to start chipping at the physical TBR in my living room. The next one there will be Drop Dead Healthy by A.J. Jacobs. I adore Jacobs and consider him one of my favorite non-fiction writers. I found this book at a B&N sale a few years ago and I’m sad I haven’t read it sooner!


Leave a comment with your link and a comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 21-March-2018

21 Mar

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community.


Currently reading: I hate to say this, but I put Harry Potter y las Reliquias de la Muerte by J.K. Rowling on hold for a little bit. Book club books call! I really hope I can get back to it soon. The ending was modified a lot to be more easily fit in the film’s constrictions so it’s like a brand new book.
I’m still plodding forward with The Circle by Dave Eggers. I hope I can renew it when my hold runs out this week. Maybe I’m going back-and-forth with someone else who’s trying to tackle this massive book. If that’s the case, I’ll switch to my other ebook.
I’ll get there with Son of a Witch by Gregory Maguire, though maybe not this week. I’m not having good luck with any of my books! I wish I could report some positive progress with at least one of them.
Of all my books, I think I’ll finish Pigs in Heaven by Barbara Kingsolver next. I’m still enjoying it a lot on long runs but my runs are shorter with the weather refusing to warm up.
Still holding on The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp. I might return to it soon if The Circle returns.
I started History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund and I can’t complain so far. I’m trying to finish this one quick so I can get back to Potter, though! I hope I don’t read so fast I don’t enjoy it.

Recently finished: Again, nothing! I think this is three weeks in a row? What a drought, the whole month of March. This has to end soon, right?

Reading Next: My next book club pick is The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. I’ve seen this book around for years and heard good things so I’m excited. I think this will be one I regret waiting so long to read. It’s available as an audio download so I’ll start it when I finish up Kingsolver. As long as it doesn’t delay me from finishing Potter, I’m happy.


Leave a comment with your link and a comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 14-March-2018

14 Mar

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community.


Currently reading: Still moving forward with Harry Potter y las Reliquias de la Muerte by J.K. Rowling. If I keep at it, I could finish next week, but I’m not going to hold my breath. My class has picked up and isn’t leaving a lot of time for reading. I’m hoping to watch both of the movies soon after I finish it.
I feel like I’m making great progress on The Circle by Dave Eggers but it’s such a long book that I’m really inching along. I have the hold for another few weeks and I hope that I can keep it going with another check-out.
I feel like I’m making progress on Son of a Witch by Gregory Maguire though it’s a bit slower than I’d like. I still don’t see where this book is going. The arc seems to be weak so I’m wondering if I haven’t gotten to the true arc yet and I’m still wandering through the exposition. If so, it’s too long.
I’m halfway through Pigs in Heaven by Barbara Kingsolver. Her writing is amazing and I’m glad I’m getting to experience this one in audio. It’s almost better that way! Hearing her turns of phrase out loud is great and I can’t wait to see where this one ends up.
Still holding on The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp. If I lose The Circle hold again, I’ll try to go back to it.

Recently finished: Nothing again! It will likely come as an avalanche of books finished and reviews to write again. I can’s say I particularly look forward to that but it is what it is.

I posted two reviews so at least I’m finally catching up there. I posted about John Irving’s A Widow for One Year on Thursday. I gave the book 4 out of 5 Stars. I watched the movie over the weekend and I’ll be posting about that tomorrow.
I also reviewed X by Ilyasah Shabazz and posted that yesterday. I’ll have two book club discussions and hopefully an author presentation to share for that one! I gave it 4 out of 5 Stars as well.

Reading Next: I found out I can’t get an audio copy of History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund. Drats! I’ll try to finish Potter soon and pick it up then. If not, I’ll start it when I go to my next book club meeting and the issue is forced a bit more. Either way, I’ll get this one next!


Leave a comment with your link and a comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 7-March-2018

7 Mar

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community.


Currently reading: I’ve made great progress in Harry Potter y las Reliquias de la Muerte by J.K. Rowling. I’m through what was made into the first movie and I’m onto the second movie now, which is well over 1/2 way through. I’m starting to be more optimistic about ever finishing this one!
I got my hold back on The Circle by Dave Eggers! I’m reading it during lunch and waiting at the chiropractor again. It’s slow progress, but I’m making it through.
I had a fair number of drives into the city over the past few days so I made good progress on Son of a Witch by Gregory Maguire. I’m going a bit slower than I really want to but I’m still enjoying it. I listened to the entire Wicked soundtrack at work on Friday because this one is getting to my head!
I haven’t been running as much so I’ve also made slow progress on Pigs in Heaven by Barbara Kingsolver. I hope the weather improves and I can run outside more which is where I do longer runs and can enjoy this one a lot more.
Since I got The Circle back, I’m going to hold on The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp for a bit. I’m sure I’ll trade back and forth as I lose and gain the holds on these two!

Recently finished: I didn’t finish anything this week. I’m so close to the beginning of many of these that I’ll probably go through a cycle like I did before and finish them all at the same time! This is making it hard to plan my reviews.

I posted a review of My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante on Monday. Please check it out when you have time. I gave it 4 out of 5 Stars.

Reading Next: I feel like I need to put something in here this week after leaving it blank two weeks in a row. My next book club selection (which won’t be discussed until April) is History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund. I’ll see if I can get an audiobook of it and possibly jump-start and read it sooner rather than later. It’s always nice to be ahead.


Leave a comment with your link and a comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!