Thursday, October 18, 2012

REVIEW: The Round House, by Louise Erdrich

The Round House, by Louise Erdrich. Published 2012 by Harper Perennial.

The year is 1988. Thirteen year old Joe lives on an Ojibwe reservation in North Dakota with his parents, his mother Geraldine a tribal administrator and his father Bazil a judge. By reservation standards, he is well off and his family is stable and prosperous. He likes to hang out with his friends and they're all obsessed with a new show on television, Star Trek: The Next Generation.

But then one ordinary Sunday his mother is attacked. Someone has raped and beaten her, and had meant to do worse. The family is thrown into chaos; his heretofore reliable and nurturing mother refuses to leave her room, or eat, or talk. His father is helpless in the face of his wife's trauma, and Joe is forced to take on the adult world long before he's ready. Frustrated with the slow pace of the investigation and the hurdles presented by tribal law, he goes out with his friends, especially his best friend Cappy, to find answers and seek justice himself. What follows is a slow-motion tragedy that will mark them all for life.

The Round House gives up its secrets slowly, and some not at all. Joe's investigation, alongside his father's, exposes buried family sagas, unspoken truths about reservation life and the white American world beyond it, and forces almost everyone into making painful choices and accepting horrific realities. The book is filled with supporting characters whose lives contain tragedies of their own; Linda Wishknob, a white woman adopted by an Indian family after her own left her to die as a infant, and Sonja, Joe's uncle's girlfriend, had, for me, the most poignant arcs. But everyone is transformed by the fallout of the attack on Geraldine.

I hadn't read Louise Erdrich before and didn't know exactly what to expect. What I found was a novel that was at once easy to read and difficult to fully assimilate. The Round House is a book that asks a lot of hard questions about guilt, remorse, justice, family, love and the search for quiet in our lives and in our hearts. The smoothness of Erdrich's prose belies the uncompromising toughness beneath the surface. I would encourage readers of literary fiction to pick it up but be ready for some difficult, emotional reading.

Rating: BUY

FTC Disclosure: I did not receive this book for review.

14 comments:

rhapsodyinbooks said...

There are authors whose prose is supposed to be wonderful, like Joyce Carol Oates and Proulx but they write such disturbing or sad stuff that I don't want to read them. I feel the same way about this one! (I need to be caught unaware to read those types of books! LOL)

Becca Lostinbooks said...

I've never read Erdrich either, but this sounds like a cerebral novel. I will put it on my TBR.

Sandy Nawrot said...

I had to go look her up, because her name seemed familiar. She is really an accomplished author! I am impressed. But I've never read her work. The book sounds like something that requires a little work. I'd have to be on my game I think to pick it up. (I am definitely not on my game these days)

Beth F said...

Looking at what Other Jill wrote, I don't like Oates, but LOVE Proulx and Erdrich.

Read Shadow Tag or her re-written The Antelope Wife. I don't find Erdrich depressing, but she does make you think.

Mystica said...

I also have to go and look her up after others are doing so as it got me intrigued!

bermudaonion said...

This sounds compellingly tragic. I do like to read books that portray life on reservations truthfully so this appeals to me.

Zibilee said...

I have only read one Erdrich book, but it seems to be her style to deliver the goods and information slowly, to build the suspense. I loved her book Shadow Tag, though it was terribly dark and sad. I might try this one. It sounds rather interesting.

Anna said...

I'll have to keep this one in mind. I've never read this author, and this book sounds fantastic. Great review!

contemplatrix said...

this is one of the National Book Award finalists this year that I want to read. I enjoy Erdrich's short stories, and have been told her Porcupine Year (a juvenile fic) is a must, too.

thank you for your lovely review, it sounds like something to not only make time for, but to carve out a good time for it due to the "difficult, emotional" aspect.

~L (omphaloskepsis)

Allison E said...

I have been seeing this book everywhere and something about the title and synopsis intrigues me. I'll put it on the list!

Nana Fredua-Agyeman said...

Interesting review. I like the arc as you've described it. It definitely sound good. Like you I've not read Erdrich.

KY Warrior Librarian said...

Sounds like my kind of book. I too have seen it touted other places, and appreciated your take on it. Thanks.

Marcella O'Connor said...

I love Erdrich. Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse isn't depressing at all if you want to venture into more of her stuff.

Aarti said...

I've only read one Erdrich before, Love Medicine. While I thought the story was beautiful, it was also just so sad and it made me hesitate to pick her up again.

But I've heard so much about this book and it sounds so powerful that I think I shall read it, anyway.