I’ve read a few books by Louise Erdrich, but none has captivated me as much as The Round House. I was hooked from the opening sentence, which in retrospect isn’t much: “Small trees had attacked my parents’ house at the foundation.” Yet, this simple statement reveals much about the narrator whose life is shaken at its roots by a violent crime against his family.
Thirteen-year-old Joe Coutts lives on a reservation in North Dakota. On an ordinary Sunday afternoon, his life is changed forever after his mother is brutally assaulted and refuses to reveal the identity of her attacker. Joe, his friends, and several family members do what they can to help each other heal, but at the core of that process is naming the man responsible.
Erdrich writes with a sense of determination, there is a need for this story to be told. The crime is complicated by the fact the location of the crime determines which law enforcement jurisdiction oversees the investigation: tribal police, state patrol or local police – entities not known for working together.
The story is full of wonderful characters, each richly developed, particularly Joe and his pals. Within the parameters of the novel are several sub-stories, Indian lore and personal histories, that strengthen those portrayed.
In her afterword, Erdrich notes, “1 in 3 Native women will be raped in her lifetime (and that figure is certainly higher as Native women often do not report rape).” This sobering statistic adds another dimension to an exceptionally well-crafted story.
The Round House