Round House (Erdrich) - Book Reviews

Book Reviews
With The Round House, her 14th novel, Louise Erdrich takes us back to the North Dakota Ojibwe reservation.... This time she focuses on one nuclear family—the 13-year-old Joe Coutts; his mother, Geraldine; and his father, Judge Antone Coutts—that is shattered and remade after a terrible event.... Although its plot suffers from a schematic quality that inhibits Ms. Erdrich’s talent for elliptical storytelling, the novel showcases her extraordinary ability to delineate the ties of love, resentment, need, duty and sympathy that bind families together.... The event that changes the Coutts family’s lives is the rape and savage beating of Geraldine, which occurs in 1988 near the round house.... While evidence piles up pointing to the identity of the man who raped Geraldine, his arrest and conviction are complicated by jurisdictional rules having to do with whether the crime took place on state or tribal land, and “who had committed it—an Indian or non-Indian.” It is Joe’s story that lies at the heart of this book, and Joe’s story that makes this flawed but powerful novel worth reading.
Michiko Kakutani - New York Times


The Round House
represents something of a departure for Erdrich, whose past novels of Indian life have usually relied on a rotating cast of narrators, a kind of storytelling chorus. Here, though, Joe is the only narrator, and the urgency of his account gives the action the momentum and tight focus of a crime novel, which, in a sense, it is. But for Erdrich, The Round House is also a return to form. Joe's voice...recalls that of Judge Antone Bazil Coutts, one of the narrators of Erdrich's masterly novel The Plague of Doves. That's appropriate because Joe is the judge's son.... If The Round House is less sweeping and symphonic than The Plague of Doves, it is just as riveting. By boring deeply into one person's darkest episode, Erdrich hits the bedrock truth about a whole community.
Maria Russo - New York Times Book Review


Erdrich never shields the reader or Joe from the truth.... She writes simply, without flourish.
Philadelphia Inquirer


An artfully balanced mystery, thriller and coming-of-age story.... This novel will have you reading at warp speed to see what happens next.
Minneapolis Star Tribune


Book by book, over the past three decades, Louise Erdrich has built one of the most moving and engrossing collections of novels in American literature.... Joe is an incredibly endearing narrator, full of urgency and radiant candor...and the story he tells transforms a sad, isolated crime into a revelation about how maturity alters our relationship with our parents, delivering us into new kinds of love and pain.
Michael Dirda - Washington Post


The story draws the reader unstoppably page by page.
Seattle Times


The Round House is filled with stunning language that recalls shades of Faulkner, Garcia Marquez and Toni Morrison. Deeply moving, this novel ranks among Erdrich’s best work, and it is impossible to forget.
USA Today


A sweeping, suspenseful outing from this prizewinning, generation-spanning chronicler of her Native American people, the Ojibwe of the northern plains.... A sumptuous tale.
Elle Magazine


A gripping mystery with a moral twist: Revenge might be the harshest punishment, but only for the victims.
Entertainment Weekly


Erdrich threads a gripping mystery and multilayered portrait of a community through a deeply affecting coming-of-age novel.
Karen Holt -  O, the Oprah Magazine


Erdrich, a Pulitzer Prize finalist, sets her newest (after Shadow Tag) in 1988 in an Ojibwe community in North Dakota; the story pulses with urgency as she probes the moral and legal ramifications of a terrible act of violence. When tribal enrollment expert Geraldine Coutts is viciously attacked, her ordeal is made even more devastating by the legal ambiguities surrounding the location and perpetrator of the assault—did the attack occur on tribal, federal, or state land? Is the aggressor white or Indian? As Geraldine becomes enveloped by depression, her husband, Bazil (the tribal judge), and their 13-year-old son, Joe, try desperately to identify her assailant and bring him to justice. The teen quickly grows frustrated with the slow pace of the law, so Joe and three friends take matters into their own hands. But revenge exacts a tragic price, and Joe is jarringly ushered into an adult realm of anguished guilt and ineffable sadness. Through Joe’s narration, which is by turns raunchy and emotionally immediate, Erdrich perceptively chronicles the attack’s disastrous effect on the family’s domestic life, their community, and Joe’s own premature introduction to a violent world.
Publishers Weekly


Set on an Ojibwe reservation in North Dakota in 1988, Erdrich's 14th novel focuses on 13-year-old Joseph. After his mother is brutally raped yet refuses to speak about the experience, Joe must not only cope with her slow physical and mental recovery but also confront his own feelings of anger and helplessness. Questions of jurisdiction and treaty law complicate matters. Doubting that justice will be served, Joe enlists his friends to help investigate the crime. Verdict:Erdrich skillfully makes Joe's coming-of-age both universal and specific. Like many a teenage boy, he sneaks beer with his buddies, watches Star Trek: The Next Generation, and obsesses about sex. But the story is also ripe with detail about reservation life, and with her rich cast of characters, from Joe's alcoholic and sometimes violent uncle Whitey and his former-stripper girlfriend Sonja, to the ex-marine priest Father Travis and the gleefully lewd Grandma Thunder, Erdrich provides flavor, humor, and depth. Joe's relationship with his father, Bazil, a judge, has echoes of To Kill a Mockingbird, as Bazil explains to his son why he continues to seek justice despite roadblocks to prosecuting non-Indians. Recommended. —Christine DeZelar-Tiedman, Univ. of Minnesota Libs., Minneapolis
Library Journal


(Starred review.) A stunning and devastating tale of hate crimes and vengeance.... Erdrich covers a vast spectrum of history, cruel loss, and bracing realizations. A preeminent tale in an essential American saga.
Booklist


Erdrich returns to the North Dakota Ojibwe community she introduced in The Plague of Doves (2008)—akin but at a remove from the community she created in the continuum.... The novel combines a coming-of-age story (think Stand By Me) with a crime and vengeance story while exploring Erdrich's trademark themes.... This second novel in a planned trilogy lacks the breadth and richness of Erdrich at her best, but middling Erdrich is still pretty great.
Kirkus Reviews




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