(Current fiction & past quality fiction)
Examiner last cited Louise Erdrich’s “Master Butchers Singing Club” in a review Feb. 6, 2010 as a “masterpiece” and noted that her novel “Shadow Tag” came up short of “Butchers” in its depth or shallowness, depending how you gauge such things. Happily “The Round House” (Harper) by Erdrich returns her to the masterful status her novels deserve. Examiner hardily recommends this latest effort.
Examiner isn’t alone. Ron Charles wrote this in The Washington Post: “Book by book, over the past three decades, Louise Erdrich has built one of the most moving and engrossing collections of novels in American literature. Few writers have done as much to help modern readers consider the position of Native Americans within a national culture that has denigrated, ignored and romanticized them. And yet her books never feel like a whip for right-thinking people to lash themselves with for the ill treatment of Indians. In rich, loosely linked stories about Native and European families in and around the fictional town of Argus, N.D., she explores our conflicted desires to belong and exclude, desires that can motivate any of us — Native or immigrant — toward acts of devotion or cruelty.”
That review followed praise from Publishers Weekly: “The story pulses with urgency as she [Erdrich] probes the moral and legal ramifications of a terrible act of violence.”
Publisher promoted the story this way: “One Sunday in the spring of 1988, a woman living on a reservation in North Dakota is attacked. The details of the crime are slow to surface as Geraldine Coutts is traumatized and reluctant to relive or reveal what happened, either to the police or to her husband, Bazil, and thirteen-year-old son, Joe. In one day, Joe’s life is irrevocably transformed. He tries to heal his mother, but she will not leave her bed and slips into an abyss of solitude. Increasingly alone, Joe finds himself thrust prematurely into an adult world for which he is ill prepared.
“While his father, who is a tribal judge, endeavors to wrest justice from a situation that defies his efforts, Joe becomes frustrated with the official investigation and sets out with his trusted friends, Cappy, Zack, and Angus, to get some answers of his own. Their quest takes them first to the Round House, a sacred space and place of worship for the Ojibwe. And this is only the beginning.
“Written with undeniable urgency and illuminating the harsh realities of contemporary life in a community where Ojibwe and white live uneasily together, ‘The Round House’ is a brilliant and entertaining novel, a masterpiece of literary fiction. Louise Erdrich embraces tragedy, the comic, a spirit world very much present in the lives of her all-too-human characters, and a tale of injustice that is, unfortunately, an authentic reflection of what happens in our own world today.”