The Round House by Louise Erdrich

Round House“Just yesterday a white guy asked me if I was a real Indian. No, I said, Columbus made a mistake. The Indians are in India.” Presented as humor during a community festival, the deep irony remains striking throughout Louise Erdrich’s award-winning, bestselling books that explore Native American identity and experiences, caught between tribal traditions and a labyrinthine non-Native system that continues to elide Native citizens of civil rights.

Justice is at the heart of Erdrich’s latest, The Round Housethis year’s National Book Award winner. The second title in a planned trilogy that began with The Plague of Doves, (2009 Pulitzer finalist), House undoubtedly succeeds as a stand-alone volume. That said, characters in House and Plague overlap and intertwine, and reading the titles sequentially amplifies the experience of both. Small phrases in House such as “A local historian had dredged that up and proved it,” would not have nearly the significance (“rough justice,” an unfinished love story) without the back-story revealed in Plague. [If you choose the audible route, although Gary Farmer reads evenly and admirably, to have Peter Francis James continue his narrating from Plague would surely have resulted in an even more resonating recitation.]

In House, Erdrich narrows her focus on one of Plague‘s four narrators, Judge Antone Bazil Coutts, a man of the law whose wife has been gravely violated. When Geraldine Coutts’ errand to retrieve a file from her office one Sunday has her still missing by the afternoon, the good judge and his son decide to go looking for her: “Women don’t realize how much store men set on the regularity of their habits,” observes 13-year-old Joe, also called “Oops” as he was a “surprise” in the late-in-life marriage of his parents. “Our pulse is set to theirs, and as always on a weekend afternoon, we were waiting for my mother to start us ticking away on the evening. And so, you see, her absence stopped time.”

After borrowing a relative’s car to search around town, father and son finally find Geraldine in their own driveway, her hands still clutching the steering wheel. Her withdrawal into a silent, isolated world of her own will shatter the small family. Joe’s determination to somehow heal his mother – fueled and abetted by his (teenage-boy, testosterone-driven) best friends – recognizes no limits. Twins separated at birth, a drowned doll full of wet bills, a priest who gives out Dune in addition to the good book, a Romeo-and-Juliet-like separation, all come together as young Joe works to restore his shattered family.

Like its teenage narrator, Round House moves urgently, rarely pausing for breath. Once begun, the story barrels toward the conclusion, shocking and reassuring both. Grab hold: don’t miss this phenomenal ride.

Readers: Adult

Published: 2012

11 Comments

Filed under ..Adult Readers, .Audio, .Fiction, Native American

11 responses to “The Round House by Louise Erdrich

  1. Pingback: The Plague of Doves by Louise Erdrich | BookDragon

  2. We’ve already had a nice long discussion about this, but I just have to say it again: TRILOGY??? I had no idea!!!!

    But it was such a great book and worth the read (and the recent award win) so I do need to pick up 1 and 3!

  3. Smart thinking, since you know that’s more of my way to do things! I will definitely look into those series soon!!! Have you read The Maze Runner series? They just came out with a 4th, and I thought it was a trilogy! It’s a YA series.

    Also, the YA series, City of Ember, was recommended to me by some of my fifth grade students, and I loved that series! There are 4 of those, and they are really good as well.

    I don’t always read YA, but will sometimes because I like being a well-rounded reader, and as an elementary school teacher (which I am not doing at the moment), it’s good to know what the kids are reading.

    • I have come to LOVE YA/MG titles (so many great books out there). And I’ve also developed a middle-age manga addiction, too! Maybe I’m just going backwards. Old age is overrated, right?

      I have NOT read Maze Runner — I think I got about 20 page in. And I started City of Ember, too, and got a little further (even had the audible version loaded on iPod for months), but again, didn’t ever finish. I will also admit I’ve never, ever read The Hunger Games, although I did LOVE LOVE LOVE Suzanne Collins’ Gregor the Overlander series to no end. Oh, and FEED by M.T. Anderson (yes, he of the NBA-winning Octavian Nothing series which I didn’t finish, ahem) is SUPERB, especially in its audible format — it gets a full production.

      If you notice a bit of a pattern here, it might be that I’m not big on dystopic fantasy fiction. Although I did have a sort-of major ‘aha-moment’ a couple of weeks ago — I couldn’t understand why today’s kids are so enthralled with dystopic fiction, especially given all the tragic, inescapable death and destruction in our daily lives. But then I realized that in these dystopic worlds, they get to control the narrative in a sense, and even to get to reach happy endings after many challenges and tragedies. In some strange, ironic way, dystopia is really about hope.

      All that said, I still haven’t read Hunger Games. And I never got beyond Book 4 of Harry Potter, either! Not that that’s dystopic fantasy … it’s just derivative redundancy. Whoops, did I say that??!!

      If you go back to elementary school teaching, I’m sure you’ll be doing a lot more MG/YA reading … and you will feel SOOOO lucky that such great stuff hits shelves daily. So many amazing books out there, so little time!

      • While you don’t seem to enjoy the dystopian fiction, have you really ever made it through a series or entire book to know for sure?

        I enjoy the dystopian fiction, although not the YA vampire type of stuff, but I like it not because of the “fix with the happy ending” parts, but because of all the questions of morality that it brings up, as well as trying to control your own fate as opposed to having others control it for you.

        • Hmmmm … I DID finish Collins’ Gregor the Overlander series. And I did read all of the Artemis Fowl series except for the last book (no particular reason why). Do those count? And it’s not exactly dystopian, but I even read all of Lemony Snicket (pleading temporary insanity there).

          I did promise the daughter quite awhile ago that I’d read Hunger Games … but she lent out the first book to a friend who keeps promising to give it back but still has it after a year plus. That’s been my excuse for not getting to those. But a promise is a promise, right??!! Okay, I’ll bug daughter again to get the book back — or resort to ordering another. Might as well start with the ‘best,’ huh? Especially since I already appreciate Collins’ other titles.

          • Those count, although I haven’t read them, except for the Lemony Snicket. I’m actually finishing up the Snicket series (I have 3 or 4 left) and I’m enjoying their wit!

            The Hunger Games is a very good series, and there really are a lot of great moral issues that occur throughout it, so enjoy (eventually)! ;)

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