There’s something extra cozy about curling into your flannel-sheathed bed in the dead of a Minnesota winter with a book set in the northwoods of Minnesota, in a small town with lakes a few churches and not much else.
So this is the world fourteen-year-old Linda live in. Madeline, at home, Linda at school, she’s a lost girl struggling to find a connection. Linda’s kind of outcast because she lives in a shack-like cabin out on a lake far from town with two people who may or may not be her parents. They’re just the people who stayed when the commune they started fell apart.
Linda is telling us her story long after the events of her teen years, after Paul has died, after the weirdness with new history teacher Mr. Grierson, after Lily is long gone. Linda lives in Minneapolis now with a mechanic boyfriend over in St. Paul, but what happened up in the northwoods hasn’t left her.
Things went a littles sideways for Linda when Mr. Grierson showed up, a teacher from California with a sad earring and a penchant for reciting the Declaration of Independence from memory. He chooses Linda for History Odyssey, and she chooses to study the history of wolves.
Of course that’s what she chooses, because she’s a secluded kid who lives out in the woods with a bunch of dogs. That is, until, a family moves in across the lake. Twenty-something Patra (short for Cleopatra) and four-year-old Paul take up residence in the fancy house and Linda is instantly intrigued, and worms her way into their lives. Patra dubs her the governess and Linda watches Paul while Patra spends her time copyediting her astronomer husband’s latest book.
Even though Linda has never experienced a real family, she can tell something is off. The book unfolds around the summer she spends with Patra, Paul, and eventually the husband. It’s kind of creepy and super engrossing. I love that a major portion of the book takes place around the arrival of the Tall Ships in Duluth.
I really liked this one about lonely Linda trying to find her place in a world that doesn’t quite make sense. I enjoyed how Emily Fridlund had Linda tell her story in both the recent past to the way back past. The jumps in time flowed pretty seamlessly for me and I never questioned where in the story or when in time I was. This book succeeds because we are so firmly rooted in Linda’s point of view and as she struggles we struggle with her. It’s a lovely, lovely book that manages to balance beautiful description of Minnesota nature (which I’m not generally a fan of) with good, strong characters.