National Book Award, Fiction, 2012
One Sunday in the spring of 1988, a woman living on a reservation in North Dakota is attacked. The details of the crime are slow to surface as Geraldine Coutts is traumatized and reluctant to relive or reveal what happened, either to the police or to her husband, Bazil, and 13-year-old son, Joe. In one day, Joe's life is irrevocably transformed. He tries to heal his mother, but she will not leave her bed and slips into an abyss of solitude. Increasingly alone, Joe finds himself thrust prematurely into an adult world for which he is ill prepared.
While his father, who is a tribal judge, endeavors to wrest justice from a situation that defies his efforts, Joe becomes frustrated with the official investigation and sets out with his trusted friends, Cappy, Zack, and Angus, to get some answers of his own. Their quest takes them first to the Round House, a sacred space and place of worship for the Ojibwe. And this is only the beginning.
Written with undeniable urgency, and illuminating the harsh realities of contemporary life in a community where Ojibwe and white live uneasily together, The Round House is a brilliant and entertaining novel, a masterpiece of literary fiction. Louise Erdrich embraces tragedy, the comic, a spirit world very much present in the lives of her all-too-human characters, and a tale of injustice that is, unfortunately, an authentic reflection of what happens in our own world today.
©2012 Louise Erdrich (P)2012 HarperCollinsPublishers
Faced with mindless duty, when an audio book player slips into a rear pocket and mini buds pop into ears, old is made new again.
Louise Erdrich, the author of “The Round House” grew up in Wahpeton, North Dakota. Erdrich’s parents, a Chippewa mother and German father, taught at the “Bureau of Indian Affairs” in Wahpeton. She is a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians and her husband was the director of “Native American Studies” at Dartmouth.
Though not an essential element of the story, Gary Dale Farmer is the narrator of “The Round House; he was born into the Cayuga nation, an Iroquois Confederacy.
This brief explanation of author and narrator gives context and authority to a significant cultural quality of “The Round House” which is a story about a rape but, more broadly, about life on an Indian reservation. The story symbolizes lives of poverty, cultural isolation, and discrimination that are amplified by an unjust American legal system.
History shows that isolation of a minority is inherently discriminatory; i.e. Brown vs. Board of Education is a legal proof of that belief. Jews in ghettos, Palestinians in the nation of Israel, Blacks and Hispanics in America, and other minorities wishing, wanting to retain their own identity, naturally, expect to be allowed to equally participate in their homelands’ prosperity. However, isolation of a minority mitigates against equal opportunity for all. “The Round House” shows how Reservation’ isolation leads a 13-year-old boy to consider murdering another human being because he sees no justice for his mother, the victim of a brutal rape.
It's most definitely a 4 out of 5 stars. At first, honestly, I was thinking 3 - the narrator's voice was flat, but it began to work with the story. The voice sounded Native American (I know - however that is "supposed" to sound).
As a coming-of-age novel, it compares to lots of novels - from Great Expectations to Catcher in the Rye, but given that it happens on a Native American reservation, it is a whole different experience.
Probably not and definitely not.
I do not think the story was very well told, and it was definitely not well narrated. It may be that Mr. Farmer's garbled speech was an impediment to Ms. Erdrich's story telling. At the time of the big reveal of who the perpetrator of the terrible crime was, I thought, "Wait, what? He did it? How did they figure that out?"
I've read quite a few mysteries and all of them were better than this one. The characters were interesting enough, but the story telling was poor.
Almost anyone. Will Patton, Craig Wasson, Dick Hill, Campbell Scott.
I didn't hate it, but I would have a hard time recommending it to anyone.
Cappy - Joe's best friend. He loves his friend Joe and is loyal to him through all there antics. He is also funny and you like the character immediately.
He brought each character to life, giving each one a voice and character.
Boomer-type who loves science, especially physics and cosmology.
I'd buy another Erdrich book, but not if Farmer narrated it.
This story is about the effects of a violent crime on the coming of age of a teenage boy. It is woven in an interesting way with little bits of insight on how laws governing native Americans have been manipulated to rob them of their wealth, dignity, and self reliance. However, the narrator- chosen I think because he is native American- really detracted from the story. He read the first chapter so slowly that I wasn't sure I was going to be able to stand listening to the book at all. Someone must have pointed this out to him because he sped up the reading in subsequent chapters. He also had an irritating habit of pausing so that descriptive clauses sounded like they were part of the next sentence, e.g. "She made us a lunch of sandwiches, pickles, and fry bread. Wrapped to absorb the grease, which I put into my bag." (Not an actual sentence from the book, but meant to illustrate the odd pauses). I was relieved to finish the book just to be done with the awful narration. Overall I thought the story was good, but I'd wished I'd read it instead of listened to it.
The story was compelling
The main character was appealing to me
I am familiar with the fact that Native American cadence can be different than non Native American. The problem with Gary Farmer's narration for me was that his performance rendered the story unintelligible. The long, poorly placed pauses and curious rushes of his speech serve to make each sentence very difficult to follow. I do not know what went on in that recording studio, but it would seem that Farmer was reading the story cold, for the first time, with no preparation whatsoever. The editing and sound is extremely poor as well. There are break points in the middle of a chapter - in the middle of a paragraph - where Farmer's voice changes so much I replayed it over and over to discern if a new person was reading. I love audio books, but a good reader, sound studio and editor are essential to the end product and this book is going down 0 for 3. I would love to see this book re-recorded.
Louise Erdrich's writing is so exquisite--and so pared-down and simple you're not even conscious of how good it is when you're in it. Because you're just so...in it. How she's able to boil down the angst of human experience into such effortless, casual prose is one mystery, but there's also the actual story, which is its own mystery/suspense story.
I didn't research Gary Farmer but he sounds like an authentic native American--if not an Ojibwe. In any case, his reading is spot-on, and I felt like he captured Erdrich's voice (channeled through a 13 year old boy) perfectly. (There are some very minor editing glitches; nothing distracting though).
I can't imagine who wouldn't be mesmerized by this story from the start, regardless of age or reading tastes...highly recommend!
Every page! I had read the book, but wanted to give a try and listen. The narration really added a powerful dimension. I was so pleased.
Louise Erdrich speaks these powerful truths of Life. Not always simple, but profound and moving! Life is not black and white and this story illustrates that precisely. Thank you Louise!
I've listened to Louise Erdich's other books and I think they're not bad; however, I think the book was very poorly read and I will avoid books in the future that are read by this narrator.
Probably. There are a lot of layers to this story that made me think.
The book was a lot like Angela's Ashes for me. It had both deep tragedy and light hearted moments - often layered on top of each other,
He sounds native American; so it is as if the man the boy became is telling you the story.
Both. Sometimes one right after the other.
I would recommend this book and have to several people. It was not what i expected - the story was more nuanced and interesting than I anticipated.
Report Inappropriate Content
If you find this review inappropriate and think it should be removed from our site, let us know. This report will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.