What began as a short story and an academic endeavor when Emily Fridlund was getting her Ph.D. at the University of Southern California was easily transformed into the opening chapter of her first novel, The History of Wolves (Atlantic Monthly Press, Jan. 2017), told from the point of view of a 14-year-old named Linda. The author notes, “I ended up feeling that I could linger in Linda’s voice because it has a kind of canniness and also an innocence that a lot of teenagers have, and it’s particularly amplified by her unique background and isolation, and her longing, her need for connection. It’s a voice I thought I could live in for a while for a longer piece.”
An impressive voice it is, as that story won the 2013 McGinnis-Ritchie Award for fiction. The History of Wolves is featured at the “Adult Editors Buzz” panel today, at 4:15 p.m., where Elizabeth Schmitz, Grove Atlantic vice president and editorial director, will be talking it up, and the author will take part in the “Adult Author Buzz” panel tomorrow, at 10 a.m.
Fridlund’s debut is a coming-of-age story that weaves together three different narratives: Linda’s isolation living with her parents in an abandoned commune in the wilderness of northern Minnesota; the story of her history teacher, who is accused of sex crimes and being a child pornographer; and Linda’s experience as a babysitter for a family that’s just moved across the lake.
One of the inspirations for her first novel is Fridlund’s academic interest in early narrative. “I was reading about narrative theory and reading a lot of 19th-century novels for my work,” she tells Show Daily. “I became really interested in the gothic and particularly in the old, great governess stories, like The Turn of the Screw and Jane Eyre and the kind of unique role that the governess plays. The contemporary equivalent is the baby sitter—sort of a participant in the family, but not a real family member.”
Thematically, Fridlund wanted to explore romantic, sexual, and familial love. She is somewhat circumspect because she doesn’t want to say too much about the plot, but she notes, “I’m really interested in the relationship of thought to action, and of witness to responsibility, the ways in which what we see relates to what we do, and whether we are held responsible for what we see and do.”
This is the author’s first time at Book Expo. She tells Show Daily, “The book has lived in my head for so long, it’s going to be quite an experience to let go and stop puppeteering the book, and see what happens when the world looks at it.”
Fridlund will be signing galleys of her book at the Grove Atlantic booth (2358), tomorrow, at 11:30 a.m.
This article appeared in the May 11, 2016 edition of PW BEA Show Daily.