A Minnesota novelist is celebrating today.
In London, the Man Booker Prize jury selected Emily Fridlund's debut novel "History of Wolves" for the shortlist for the prestigious literary award. It's just part of a remarkable year for the young writer.
Fridlund's "History of Wolves" opens thus:
"It's not that I never think about Paul. He comes to me occasionally before I am fully awake, though I almost never remember what he said, or what I did, or didn't do to him. In my mind the kid just plops down into my lap. Boom. That's how I know its him. There is no interest in me. No hesitation. We are sitting in the nature center on a late afternoon like any other, and his body moves automatically towards mine, not out of love or respect, but simply because he hasn't yet learned the etiquette of minding where his body stops and another begins."
We soon learn that Paul, 4 years old, is dead. "History of Wolves" is the story of a 14-year-old girl called Linda, living in a small Minnesota town called Loose River. She's smart but uncomfortable with herself and her life.
She believes she has found an escape when she meets a reclusive couple who have moved into a house across the lake. They need a babysitter for Paul, and Linda jumps at the chance. The scene is set for tragedy.
The book immediately drew favorable reviews for its precise writing and storytelling. Now it's been selected as one of the six best English language novels of the year. Fridlund said she is excited and humbled to be in the company of the other shortlisted authors, including George Saunders, Ali Smith and Paul Auster.
"In some ways, I think of it as such a weird, quirky book," she said. "And also such a private, intense set of questions that I was asking myself and really wanted answered and I needed answered. To see how readers have taken those questions on and encountered my protagonist Linda and the world that I've created has been really interesting and again I would say humbling."
It's been a year of meteoric change for Fridlund, who grew up in the Twin Cities. A debut novel being short listed for the Booker is just one of the major events in her life.
"I found out about the long list when I was in the hospital giving birth to my first son," she said. "So my life was already changing so dramatically."
That was seven months ago. And Fridlund's life is about to change dramatically again. The Booker, with its $66,000 prize, will be announced Oct. 17. There's international interest in the award. In recent years, many shortlisted overseas authors have relocated briefly to the U.K. to be available to the press. So that's what Fridlund will do.
"We'll be going to London," she said. "I'll take my son Elliot and my husband, and I am sure I will be thinking a lot about the book and a lot about literature, and also probably a lot about just the practicalities of getting a small child from here to there and keeping him fed and well rested."
And probably selling some books. Even if "History of Wolves" does not win, just being shortlisted for the Booker can bring a respectable bump at the bookstore.