In this literary masterwork, Louise Erdrich, the best-selling author of the National Book Award-winning The Round House and the Pulitzer Prize nominee The Plague of Doves, wields her breathtaking narrative magic in an emotionally haunting contemporary tale of a tragic accident, a demand for justice, and a profound act of atonement with ancient roots in Native American culture.
North Dakota, late summer, 1999. Landreaux Iron stalks a deer along the edge of the property bordering his own. He shoots with easy confidence - but when the buck springs away, Landreaux realizes he's hit something else, a blur he saw as he squeezed the trigger. When he staggers closer, he realizes he has killed his neighbor's five-year-old son, Dusty Ravich.
The youngest child of his friend and neighbor, Peter Ravich, Dusty was best friends with Landreaux's five-year-old son, LaRose. The two families have always been close, sharing food, clothing, and rides into town; their children played together despite going to different schools; and Landreaux's wife, Emmaline, is half sister to Dusty's mother, Nola. Horrified at what he's done, the recovered alcoholic turns to an Ojibwe tribe tradition - the sweat lodge - for guidance and finds a way forward. Following an ancient means of retribution, he and Emmaline will give LaRose to the grieving Peter and Nola. "Our son will be your son now," they tell them.
LaRose is quickly absorbed into his new family. Plagued by thoughts of suicide, Nola dotes on him, keeping her darkness at bay. His fierce, rebellious new "sister", Maggie, welcomes him as a coconspirator who can ease her volatile mother's terrifying moods. Gradually he's allowed shared visits with his birth family, whose sorrow mirrors the Raviches' own. As the years pass, LaRose becomes the linchpin linking the Irons and the Raviches, and eventually their mutual pain begins to heal.
But when a vengeful man with a longstanding grudge against Landreaux begins raising trouble, hurling accusations of a cover-up the day Dusty died, he threatens the tenuous peace that has kept these two fragile families whole.
Inspiring and affecting, LaRose is a powerful exploration of loss, justice, and the reparation of the human heart and an unforgettable, dazzling tour de force from one of America's most distinguished literary masters.
©2016 Louise Erdrich (P)2016 HarperCollins Publishers
"As narrator, Erdrich inhabits [the characters] - dark, light, comic, confused - with apparent effortlessness. She delivers with equal ease mythic stories, slapstick nursing home exchanges, teen angst, and all-consuming grief.... To keep the emotions she, as author, has created, Erdrich, as narrator, digs deep. LaRose is a winning story that will leave listeners cheering." (AudioFile)
Having just finished this book I'm a bit overcome with emotion to put its impact into words. I will say that, as an Ojibwe woman myself, I found it utterly absorbing, beautiful, true, funny, moving, heartbreaking, and by the end I felt joy! She is an incredible writer and we are so lucky as listeners that the author read this book herself. She captures each character perfectly and winds her various stories together to make one cohesive and yet surprising tale that will stay with you. I'm just crazy about this book.
The novels of Erdrich's have to them a feeling of mysticism -- a breath of earthy magic that always makes me feel like I'm secretly observing something that will disappear or skitter away if I make even a peep. It's best to just simply listen to her beautifully arranged words; put yourself in her hands and know you will be taken into her delicate universe. The most simple and mundane routines that go on in this world become significant, as if every action and every word is a ritual that has bearing on the earth itself. The characters have a sense of wounded animals -- people struggling with the day to day in addition to their perception of a world different from their story of creation and history. Few writers can lay open their characters to the readers with such familiarity and intimacy. Even her most wretched and treacherous characters seem without guile, from the alcoholics that plan on murderous revenge, the young girl set on causing as much pain and trouble as possible, to the drug addict pilfering medications from the old folks home.
With LaRose, Erdrich again draws her readers into the realm of Native history and mythology, specifically that of the Ojibwe Indians of North Dakota, as she has done in several of her previous books. As outlined in the provided summary, Landreaux Iron realizes he has mistakenly shot his neighbor's 5 yr. old son (whose mother is also his sister-in-law). Seeking counsel he follows a King Solomon type of retribution and offers his own son to the grieving parents. They resent the gesture yet at the same time are desperate for their little boy ... “He was Dusty and the opposite of Dusty.” Ancestors rise from history to and walk through this story that ties the past to the present with a connection through LaRose, told in flashbacks about an ancestor with a tragic past also named LaRose. The story is emotionally wrenching, but Erdrich softens the pain with humor and the sweet naivete of children.
The author narrates the book perfectly, simply and without flourish. It feels as natural and organic as the novel, lovely and intimate. Probably a little more accessible than some of her novels and definitely one that stands alone.
My favorite of her books used to be The Round House. Now it is LaRose. What a combination to have an author with the gifts of voice and acting read this beautiful prose, to apply inflection and interpret it orally as she meant it on "paper". Can't remember if I've ever personally felt a book deserved 5 stars times 3 before.
crunchy granola mom
This is my first Louise Erdich novel but it won't be my last. Her storytelling weaves characters and plots like a fine Indian blanket, rich with color, texture, and tradition.
The author is able to capture the ordinary lives of two families who live and oppositional a motional fields. Her characters become quite live it and alive with their deep emotions and life experience. She makes you appreciate the small moments of our own existence and celebrating the many moments of our lives.
Great storytelling. Beautiful, poetic but direct prose. Dramatized perfectly by the author. I'm so glad I listened.
And the author is a gifted narrator. Her vocal interpretation of her characters brought me much closer to them than reading the book would have done.
Say something about yourself!
Another great novel by Louise Erdrich; her characters are palpable, her dialogue sounds just like people speak, she creates multiple intertwining plot lines, and she keeps the whole thing moving forward without any apparent effort.
This is a story where the title character isn't really the main--or at least not the only main--character of the story. The novel allows the reader/listener to figure out who might be the center of the novel slowly. I loved this technique. (Of course, like many or maybe all of her books, the "main character" is the entire community described in the book--including the community's history and ancestors.)
The issues that the characters deal with will be familiar to those who have read Erdrich before. She broadens the story by exploring lives of the ancestors of the characters in the book--and the stories they told and still tell.
I am not necessarily a fan of Author-read books. This is an exception. Erdrich's narration was perfect for the book; her phrasing was precise. The minor but consistent changes in her voice indicated which character was speaking, and her accents were spot-on.
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