Archive for the ‘louise erdrich’ Tag

Family Ties   Leave a comment

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Grief, atonement and tradition are all bound together in LaRose by Louise Erdrich. The title refers not only to the young boy shuttled back and forth between two families, but also previous ancestors, all women, with the same name.

LaRose’s father accidently shoots his young son’s best friend, the child of neighbors. As part of Ojibwe custom of retribution, La Rose’s parents give him to the grieving parents. Interspersed with the adjustments this entails are stories of the original LaRose, a strong, intelligent woman able to see more than others with knowledge others don’t possess. Her traits, that include tribal medicine and a keen awareness of others, are passed down through four generations. Even the youngest of the namesakes has special, insightful characteristics.

This is more than an account about two families who lose a son. Although, the descriptions of the two sets of parents and siblings are full of depth and richness. It is also a narrative that examines the personal histories of many of the reservation’s residents, including the parish priest and a ne’er-do-well.

Erdrich blends the traditional Indian ways with modern life; the novel begins in 1999. Humor, rich descriptions of the landscape and dynamic characters make this an engaging work. It is sad, even heartbreakingly so; yet there are also moments of joy and revelation of life’s beauty.

Ultimately, this is a love story – in fact, many love stories: parental love and sacrifice; husband and wife love (and sacrifice); the relationships among siblings; and new relationships.

La Rose
Four Bookmarks
HarperCollins, 2016
373 pages

Strength in Numbers   2 comments


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

Four-and-a-half Bookmarks
Harper, 2012
321 pages