Tag: debuts


If This, Then That: History of Wolves

Posted 2 January, 2017 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

If This, Then That: History of WolvesHistory of Wolves by Emily Fridlund
Published by Grove Atlantic on January 3rd 2017
Pages: 288
Goodreads
three-half-stars

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange honest review consideration. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Linda has an idiosyncratic home life: her parents live in abandoned commune cabins in northern Minnesota and are hanging on to the last vestiges of a faded counter-culture world. The kids at school call her 'Freak', or 'Commie'. She is an outsider in all things. Her understanding of the world comes from her observations at school, where her teacher is accused of possessing child pornography, and from watching the seemingly ordinary life of a family she babysits for. Yet while the accusation against the teacher is perhaps more innocent than it seemed at first, the ordinary family turns out to be more complicated. As Linda insinuates her way into the family's orbit, she realises they are hiding something. If she tells the truth, she will lose the normal family life she is beginning to enjoy with them; but if she doesn't, their son may die.Superbly-paced and beautifully written, HISTORY OF WOLVES is an extraordinary debut novel about guilt, innocence, negligence, well-meaning belief and the death of a child.

I want to start with a brief review of Fridlund’s History of Wolves. While I usually love debut literary fiction novels, History of Wolves was a bit of a failure to launch for me. I felt like Fridlund was a little too ambitious with this story. It’s true that the writing is lyrical. She attempts to create an atmosphere that is charged with the feeling something isn’t quite right, but this ultimately fails. The burn is a bit too slow. The juxtaposition between the scandal of child pornography and the family that seems a little too good to be true doesn’t quite come off.

Ultimately, I felt like the narrative push and pull that Fridlund seemed to be aiming for in History of Wolves failed because she was trying to do too much. The atmosphere in the woods, Linda’s school life, home life, and time she spends with the Gardners never really becomes a cohesive narrative. The reader thinks that there’s something slightly off about the Gardner’s, but honestly up until the reveal (which because of heavy handed foreshadowing was completely expected) it’s truly hard to really care.

I think that Fridlund would have been better served to focus completely on the story of Linda and the Gardner’s, cutting out the whole bit about the teacher and her odd upbringing in the commune.

That being said, if you read this book and enjoy it, or even mostly enjoy it I have to point you towards The Children Act, it explores similar themes of the rights of people to their religion weighed against the rights that their children have. It’s a fascinating first amendment discussion for anyone who wants to have it.

So Reader, what do you think? Have you read History of Wolves yet? Does it sound like your kind of thing?

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Must Read Monday: Girl at War

Posted 18 May, 2015 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reading, Reviews

Must Read Monday: Girl at WarGirl at War by Sara Novic
Published by Random House Publishing Group on May 12th 2015
Genres: Coming of Age, Cultural Heritage, Fiction, Literary, War & Military
Pages: 336
Goodreads
four-half-stars

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange honest review consideration. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Zagreb, 1991. Ana Jurić is a carefree ten-year-old, living with her family in a small apartment in Croatia’s capital. But that year, civil war breaks out across Yugoslavia, splintering Ana’s idyllic childhood. Daily life is altered by food rations and air raid drills, and soccer matches are replaced by sniper fire. Neighbors grow suspicious of one another, and Ana’s sense of safety starts to fray. When the war arrives at her doorstep, Ana must find her way in a dangerous world.   New York, 2001. Ana is now a college student in Manhattan. Though she’s tried to move on from her past, she can’t escape her memories of war—secrets she keeps even from those closest to her. Haunted by the events that forever changed her family, Ana returns to Croatia after a decade away, hoping to make peace with the place she once called home. As she faces her ghosts, she must come to terms with her country’s difficult history and the events that interrupted her childhood years before.

This is another one of those books that I will forever be indebted for other people pushing me to read (specifially – at least- Monika and Shannon). I’m in a funky place right now with my reading and my blogging but Girl at War pierced through that place, quite easily, and took me away from my own difficulties.

The first thing that I really appreciated and liked about this book is that the Yugoslavian civil war, which for Americans, even in collegiate level world history courses is glossed over like it’s no big deal. This book made me feel small as an American — in a good way. I want to know more now about the massacres that took place. Because honestly, there were scenes in Girl at War that felt like they were straight out of a WWII novel/non-fiction book. This was a lesson for me, something that I knew, but that this novel really pounded home for me — that even in a post Nazi world, there are still atrocities taking place. The Yugoslavian civil war happened in Europe, in my lifetime. Why don’t I know more about it?

Another thing that I really enjoyed about this novel was Ana’s desperation and journey to fit in to American society as a refugee, along with the juxtaposition of her sister, who had been sent to America as an infant with no memories of the horrors that happened at home.

The writing in this novel is excellent, like I said I’m in a slump caused by reasons I can pinpoint, and this still was able to awaken me out of my slumpiness and propel me through it in a mere few days. It leaves me to consider what other genocidal atrocities do I know about only for passing conversation.

Compelling, well written, and absolutely readable. This is your must read book for the summer.

Do you feel uneducated about wars that your country hasn’t been affected by, Reader? I also think of all the genocide and civil wars in Africa when I speak of this. Have you read Girl at War yet? Does it sound like your bag?

April

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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