Review | Powell’s INDIEspensable # 64 | The History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund


This isn’t my first go-around with Powell’s INDIEspensable book subscription and my thoughts this time are pretty similar to last time: Great books, but I have a hard time finding the value.

The last time I tried the INDIEsepnsable subscription, the book was A Doubter’s Almanac, which was fantastic. The book was fantastic this time too (which we’ll get to in a minute) but I have a hard time justifying the $40.00 this subscription costs.

In its favor, the book is a signed first edition that comes in a pretty fancy cardboard slipcover. Said slipcover is sturdy, has the graphic from the cover of the book on it, and is relatively cool. But also? Not really necessary.

Indiespensable trail butter.jpgAgainst it’s favor is the fact that the box consisted of this book (which is selling for $15.15 on Amazon right now) and Bogg’s Trail Butter in a Mountaineer Maple flavor that was created exclusively for this box. The ingredients appear to actually be significantly different than what’s listed on their website. The one I received contains almonds and cashews, while the one online is made with almonds, hazelnuts, and peanuts. I much prefer the nuts in mine, so that’s a win for me.

It does taste good but this nut butter is selling for $9. Already, I can tell you that I wouldn’t spend $9 for an 8 ounce jar of peanut butter, but even if I considered that a reasonable price to pay, I’m still paying $40 for a subscription that has a value this month (using their nut butter value) of $24.

I generally don’t get that worked up about value because for me the value isn’t in getting a deep discount on books – the value is in discovering books I wouldn’t otherwise discover and getting fun bookish doodads that I wouldn’t buy otherwise. But $16 just for curation? And then the only thing you send with the book is a jar of peanut butter which has zero to do with the book? I don’t know Powell’s, I think y’all might be some dirty dogs.

Though, the reason I came back is that one of the boxes I missed in hiatus had an advanced reader’s copy of John Darnielle’s latest book and I was (and remain) super bummed that I missed that.

history of wolves.jpgBut now, the book: History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund. The blurb on the front reads, “Gorgeous . . . These are haunted pages,” and I think that’s a great feeling to have when you enter this book – that you’re about to enter some haunted pages.

First of all, we’re dealing with an unreliable narrator, which I love. We slowly learn over the course of the book that the narrator is now about 20 years older than she was in the story she’s telling. Initially, it seems to be about a girl who’s neglected by her parents, who befriends the neighbors and finds a sense of belonging and acceptance. All of those things are true, and it is indeed the coming of age story it presents itself as from the beginning, but there is a pretty major twist that slowly unraveled and made me so grateful that I was able to read this thing in one day – I needed to know what happened next!

The opening chapter of History of Wolves was published back in 2013 and won the McGinnis-Ritchie Award or Fiction – and that’s no surprise. It is haunting and lovely and sets the scene so well. As I learned in the tiny booklet that came along with the book (I guess maybe that adds value? I think of it as more marketing material than exciting extra, though) Fridlund didn’t intend to write her first novel when she started out. She wrote this story and it stayed with her. The next thing she knew, she turned it into a novel – and an arresting one at that.

Rating: 9/10 I loved everything about this book but it’s not getting that 10 because it didn’t quite make it into “I’ll be throwing this into everyone’s face” territory.

Recommended for: Unreliable narrative, gothic, coming-of-age, beautiful writing

Does it pass the Bechdel–Wallace test? It sure does

Author of color / main character of color / female author / female main character: N / N / Y / Y

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