“Teenage Linda lives with her parents in the austere woods of northern Minnesota, where their nearly abandoned commune stands as a last vestige of a lost counter-culture world. Isolated at home and an outsider at school, Linda is drawn to the enigmatic Lily and new history teacher Mr. Grierson. When Mr. Grierson is faced with child pornography charges, his arrest deeply affects Linda as she wrestles with her own fledgling desires and craving to belong. And then the young Gardner family moves in across the lake and Linda finds herself welcomed into their home as a babysitter for their little boy. But with this new sense of belonging comes expectations and secrets she doesnt understand and, over the course of a summer, Linda makes a set of choices that reverberate throughout her life. ” – Summary from Amazon.
This was quite a tragic coming-of-age story. Linda’s childhood was not a normal one, growing up for a time in a commune her parents began with friends and acquaintances. She only had one person in the commune that she was close to. When the commune broke apart, she was left with her parents, no friends, and viewed as a freak by the kids in town. This utter isolation that was her childhood influenced everything she did throughout her life. It’s what made her seek attention from Mr, Grierson, why she tried so hard to integrate herself into the Gardner family, and why she eventually pushed away people who got too close to her in her later years. Isolation, rejection, and loss was all she knew.
Linda’s story isn’t the only tragic one in this novel though. The fate of the young Gardner child was the most tragic. A fate that could have been easily avoided with a single phone call. A phone call that wasn’t made because of the father’s religious belief that if you believed enough, you could think the pain and sickness away. In addition, the only other person who could have intervened to get the boy the help he needed was Linda, and she was only 15 and trying desperately to please the Gardner mom, Patra, who she was infatuated with. Linda carries her memories of this boy and his family and her guilt with her over the years, but the memories don’t hold only feelings of guilt or sorrow. No matter how bad the outcome was, that time of her life when she was accepted into the Gardner home was the happiest of her life – which only makes it more tragic that it ended the way it did.
Emily Fridlund is a beautiful writer, amazing scenery and the emotions drip from every sentence. It may be a tragic story, but it’s also a work of art. It is certainly worth the read!