Author: Louise Erdrich
Date Published: October 2, 2012
How I Heard About It: Review copy kindly provided by the publisher and TLC Book Tours.
Two Sentence Summary: Thirteen year old Joe Coutts has spent his life on the Ojibwe reservation, surrounded by close-knit family and tribal community. When his mother is brutally attacked, raped, and nearly murdered by an unknown assailant, Joe tries desperately to put the mysterious pieces together and begins to uncover difficult and intricate truths about everyone in his life.
"Now the crane my mother used to watch, or its offspring, flapped slowly past my window. That evening it cast the image not of itself but of an angel on my wall. I watched this shadow. Through some refraction of brilliance the wings arched up from the slender body. Then the feathers took fire so the creature was consumed by light."
Things I Think: Having recently dealt with matters of violent assault in my life, I wasn't sure I'd be able to handle this novel yet. But the desire to familiarize myself with Erdrich's work temporarily outweighed trepidation, and here we are!
I'm extremely late to the game when it comes to novelist Louise Erdrich. She's written thirteen other novels, has published three books of poetry, and even has several children's books out in the world. And based on everyone's adoration, quality has not been sacrificed for quantity. When I heard that "The Round House" had been nominated for the 2012 National Book Award, I knew the time had come to hop on the Erdrich train (or at least give it a good peep.)
And now I have thirteen more novels on my TBR list.
Apparently "The Round House" is a continuation of previous plot lines involving Joe's parents (Geraldine and Bazil). But the novel stands so independently I'd never have known, without all of the supplemental reading I did online. Joe is a brilliantly written narrator. Facing intense moral struggles in the face of what has happened to his mother, he keenly weighs loyalties to family, community, the law. Dissatisfied with the truth-seeking attempts of the authorities, he bravely and brazenly seeks out facts on his own.
The novel is rich in history and Ojibwe culture; reservation politics, both internal and external, gain increasing clarity as the plot-heavy novel unfolds. Some passages involving Bazil's legal knowledge (court cases from the rez, etc.) can become a bit burdensome, but the overall effect is to inspire further curiosity.
"The Round House" is certainly literary but also qualifies as an intense mystery/thriller. Despite its length, the plot's rapid-fire pace makes it a rather quick read (a couple of days, in my case.) No doubt, this is going to be a Big Book of 2012; I think you'll be seeing it pop up on a lot of "best of" lists promptly.