I was craving a thriller so I searched for a “literary thriller” online, my definition being one that delivers suspense and twists without sacrificing depth and flair. To my surprise, a list I consulted included Emily Fridlund’s History of Wolves. A chilling read, yes, but I wouldn’t have qualified it as a thriller.
This made me think for a moment. I read History last fall and I did remember the sense of dread thrumming throughout, a feeling I’m headed somewhere dark. But it’s hardly a page-turner; the narration is slow, even placid at times, what with a pensive outcast for a protagonist and the frigid woods of Northern Minnesota as a setting. Madeline, who introduces herself as Linda does glow, delicately, with warmth and kindness. The people she cares most about though, the ones that make her experience some semblance of belonging and wholeness, suffer terrible fates.
Now five months into the pandemic, the book now feels like a foreshadowing. In this time of suffering, many of us, myself included, lead relatively comfortable lives. We eat well, sleep in warm beds. We are employed, working from our homes, whatever pros or cons that may entail. We Zoom/Skype with family and friends from far away, we clasp tightly the ones in our bubble. A part of me waits for the painful twist, which wouldn’t actually be a twist because we have known all along that things have been horribly wrong (way before Covid-19). We munch on our snacks and watch horrendous stories on the news. We turn in for the night and hear the couple next door fight more intensely than ever. We try to be kinder. To loved ones and to our neighbours. To our pets and plants. But we know of a fog that hovers and never entirely clears. A terrible fate awaits.
This could be the onset of some anxiety disorder. Hence the search for a thriller novel to distract myself with. Willing to hear suggestions out there. About the thriller, I mean.
I never tell people what to read, but I’ll say this: I will reread History of Wolves. In times like these, a cold yet simmering novel about an isolated caring soul may just be the right accompaniment to this strange time. Probably when autumn arrives in a few weeks.
This year is going by so fast. Perhaps it’s for the best.