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Plague of Doves (Erdrich) - Book Reviews

Book Reviews
In The Plague of Doves, Erdrich has created an often gorgeous, sometimes maddeningly opaque portrait of a community strangled by its own history. Pluto is one of those places we read about now and then when big-city papers run features about the death of small-town America. When you grow up in such a place, people know that your mother was a wild child back in high school. They know why your uncle talks to himself in the grocery store. What Erdrich knows is that this history, built up over generations, yields a kind of claustrophobia that has only one cure: Leave.
Bruce Barcott - New York Times Review


Writing in prose that combines the magical sleight of hand of Gabriel Garcia Marquez with the earthy, American rhythms of Faulkner, Ms. Erdrich traces the connections between these characters and their many friends and relatives with sympathy, humor and the unsentimental ardor of a writer who sees that the tragedy and comedy in her people's lives are ineluctably commingled.... Her storytelling here is supple and assured, easily navigating the wavering line between a recognizable, psychological world and the more arcane world of legend and fable...arguably her most ambitious—and in many ways, her most deeply affecting—work yet.
Michiko Kakutani - New York Times


What marks these stories—some of which appeared in the New Yorker and the Atlantic—is what has always set Erdrich apart and made her work seem miraculous: the jostling of pathos and comedy, tragedy and slapstick in a peculiar dance. As horrific as the crimes at the heart of this novel are, other sections remind us that Erdrich is a great comic writer. When Mooshum isn't leading Eve through the history of her family, he's daring the local Catholic priest to save him or pursuing alcohol and romance with dogged, hilarious determination. Some of the funniest moments take place during a funeral, and even the murders and lynchings that bleed so much heartache are heightened by incongruous notes of humor.
Ron Charles - Washington Post


Erdrich's 13th novel, a multigenerational tour de force of sin, redemption, murder and vengeance, finds its roots in the 1911 slaughter of a farming family near Pluto, N. Dak. The family's infant daughter is spared, and a posse forms, incorrectly blames three Indians and lynches them. One, Mooshum Milk, miraculously survives. Over the next century, descendants of both the hanged men and the lynch mob develop relationships that become deeply entangled, and their disparate stories are held together via principal narrator Evelina, Mooshum Milk's granddaughter, who comes of age on an Indian reservation near Pluto in the 1960s and '70s and forms two fateful adolescent crushes: one on bad-boy schoolmate Corwin Peace and one on a nun. Though Evelina doesn't know it, both are descendants of lynch mob members. The plot splinters as Evelina enrolls in college and finds work at a mental asylum; Corwin spirals into a life of crime; and a long-lost violin (its backstory is another beautiful piece of the mosaic) takes on massive significance. Erdrich plays individual narratives off one another, dropping apparently insignificant clues that build to head-slapping revelations as fates intertwine and the person responsible for the 1911 killing is identified.
Publishers Weekly


Erdrich adds more layers of history to her community centered on an Ojibwe reservation in rural North Dakota, and as her loyal readers understand, she is going to make us work for it. This latest novel (after The Game of Silence, a novel for children) begins with a mysterious killing. As the people of the town of Pluto get the chance to tell their stories, they are attempting to reconcile the tangible with the spiritual, the native with the Eurocentric, and the reason behind the murders is hidden within the struggle. Be it the power of nature, the power of the holy, or the power of one's ancestry, the people that populate these linked tales are at the mercy of unseen forces. Erdrich's stories require our patience, as we are offered bits and scraps that we must somehow arrange in order to get to the sum of their parts. She gives us credit for being smart enough to see the big picture, and the end result is always worth the effort. This work serves to bolster her body of work, and we are fortunate that such a gifted storyteller continues to focus her gaze on this region of the continent. Highly recommended for all fiction collections.
Susanne Wells - Library Journal


The latest Erdrich novel about the Ojibwes and the whites they live among in North Dakota spirals around a terrible multiple murder that reverberates down through generations of a community. In the 1960s, Evelina Harp's Ojibwe grandfather, Mooshum, tells mesmerizing stories of his past. Having found a murdered family and saved the surviving baby, Mooshum and three Ojibwe friends were blamed for the killings and lynched by a mob of local whites in 1911. For reasons not immediately apparent, Mooshum was spared at the last moment, but his friends died. Evelina's first boyfriend is Corwin Peace, whose ancestor was one of those lynched. Her favorite teacher, a nun, descends from one of the mob leaders. And Evelina's middle-class parents of mixed heritage straddle the two cultures. Aunt Neve Harp sent her banker husband, who is Corwin's father, to prison after he arranged Neve's kidnapping by Corwin's then teenage uncle Billy in a phony ransom subplot (a little reminiscent of the movie Fargo). Spiritual Billy evolves into the tyrannical leader of a religious cult until his wife Marn Wolde, the daughter of farmers whose land he's taken over, kills him to save her children. While in college Evelina ends up briefly in a mental hospital where she gets to know Marn's lunatic uncle Warren. Corwin, under the positive influence of Judge Coutts and his new wife, Evelina's Aunt Geraldine, becomes a musician playing the same violin that once belonged to his ancestors. Judge Coutts's previous lover Cordelia, an older woman and a doctor who won't treat Indians, was once saved by Mooshum and his friends. Guilt and redemption pepper these self-sufficient, intertwining stories,and readers who can keep track of the characters will find their efforts rewarded. The magic lies in the details of Erdrich's ever-replenishing mythology, whether of a lost stamp collection or a boy's salvation. A lush, multilayered book. 
Kirkus Reviews




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