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
I purchased this hoping for more of the mystery element. However, it is much more of a coming of age story. Very similar to To Kill A Mockingbird but more crude.
There is one scene where the 13 year old protagonist enjoys a strip tease given by his aunt (by marriage) along with his grandfather. This scene could've been left out or I could've done without the details of the boy's arousal.
Narration was painfully slow, and at times the emotions were portrayed inaccurately by the narrator. The story itself was good, with classic novel elements like narrative tension and sub plot vs. over plot development done to an above-average level. Overall though, the characters largely lack depth and interest, especially in relation to the colorful and carefully-crafted plot.
I have long read, & now listened, to Louise Erdrich's stories. Her characters are vastly human, wise, often broken & vulnerable to the circumstance of their life situations. But always, always, they are imperfectly real & kind.
I will not talk about plot or why this story is unique to the experience of a coming of age boy seeking manhood haphazardly among chaos if his once safe family.
But it is.
And the circumstance of his becoming...
Knowing? A knower?
And the narration is beautifully & thoughtfully accomplished.
A sublime experience highly recommended.
I enjoyed this book tremendously! It's an interesting story about a boy growing up on an Indian reservation in North Dakota and how he handles difficult family issues. The book is well written and the reader does a good job as well.
I appreciate the desire to have an authentic voice for the narrator, but I've listened to over 100 books in the past 2 years and some people are just not good narrators
Every monologue is delivered as a long string of shouted words with no emotion and no realism. Very common words are not pronounced consistently and the general style of story telling is absent in an effort to just barrel through the text
Which is all too bad, because this book is pretty great. The only other book I finished in spite of the narrator was 'poisonwood bible', which was so good, it transcended the terrible narration.
I think the round house also does that and if you are unlikely to read this book the regular way, I think this book is worth sitting through on audio. Interesting story, great characters, not too preachy (assuming you are somewhat sympathetic to the Native American viewpoint), but enough politics in it to be more than just a basic crime and punishment story
In fact, I think the poisonwood bible comparison is pretty valid. If you liked that book, give this one a try. If you haven't read that book, go check it out
Others have commented negatively about the narration, however for me it added so much to the authenticity of the story.
Well worth a listen.
Joe, his buddies and their antics provided such real life humor in an otherwise sad tale.
Mr Farmer brought this book to life. I felt like a fly on the wall seeing it all happen. Superb performance.
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.
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