With a suitcase full of sausages and a master butcher's precious set of knives, Fidelis sets out for America, getting as far as Argus, North Dakota, where he settles, building a business and a home for his family, which now includes Eva and four sons, and a singing club consisting of the best voices in town.
What happens when the Old World meets the New, in the person of Delphine Watzka, becomes one of the great adventures of Fidelis's life. Delphine meets Eva and is enchanted. She meets Fidelis, and the ground trembles. These momentous encounters will determine the course of Delphine's life, and the trajectory of this brilliant new novel in which Louise Erdrich creates a world filled with memorable characters who grapple with the worst and best of human nature.
©2004 Louise Erdrich; (P)2004 HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.
"An enrapturing plunge into the depths of the human heart." (Washington Post Book World)
"Bordering on magical realism, this marvelous yarn introduces a world of rich, expansive imagery and an abundance of memorably compelling characters." (Publishers Weekly)
"Erdrich narrates with expressive intimacy, bringing authenticity to the exceptional people who populate Argus, North Dakota....A master storyteller, Erdrich creates charismatic characters, and her reading makes each distinctly memorable." (AudioFile)
"Powerful, richly detailed....It's clear that Erdrich, one of our finest writers, is working at the very peak of her considerable powers." (Booklist)
Louise Erdrich is a crafter of wonderful stories of the northern prairie. Her often quirky characters meander through sometimes bizarre plotscapes following trails of finely created prose toward a rich reading experience. The Master Butcher's Singing Club is, in my view, her finest book. It is doubly fortunate that Audible is offering the book unabridged AND that it is read by the author herself, in her very fine voice. The combination of drama and poetry, comedy and pathos, is just right, and I am pleased to have access to this novel, at last, through my Audible.com account.
This book is so carefully wrapped it tends to be precious, and such careful attention to the packaging may be what makes it seem methodical. The problem is also exacerbated by the narrator, whose style is also very deliberate and restrained (although she might be good with a different book). Erdrich inserts bits of fashionable culture, such as juggling and circus perfomers, along with wandering counter culture homeless who are "really deep," which seems artificial and strained. However, the protagonist is well developed, and the portrait of midwestern America between the world wars feels real and interesting. Consequently, I kept waiting for the climax but was disappointed that the highly worked plot never really delivered.
I hesitated to read this book, because I felt I didn't always "get" Erdrich's books. But I found myself quickly drawn into the narrative, the time period, the portrayal of small-town-midwestern life, and most of all, into the personalities of the characters in this book. Plot points are resolved, not always in the happiest of ways, but in a way that was true to life. This book goes onto my all-time-favorites list.
At first a bit slow, but not dead, the narrator pulls you into the life and mind of the main character, Fidelis Voltsvogel. As you continue to listen, you begin to piece together the lives, thoughts and deeds of all of the characters. Each is described in great detail throughout the chapters with realistic flaws and captivating personalities.
This is a long one and enjoyable through every minute.
I kept waiting for the various threads of the story to coalesce into a meaningful or at least purposeful whole. It never happened. Instead there is a series of misfortunes that befall the characters in this story, but none of them moves the overall narrative in any discernible direction. Overall a disappointing, depressing waste of a credit.
This book was a worthy read. The characters are so wonderful and rich. A great book to listen to for the whole family.
Audible Member Since 2003
I am surprised to see the glowing reviews listed here. Frankly, this book does not deserve them. True, the prose and language are somewhat engaging, but the author tends to take herself too seriously, droning on and on about people, places and things with barely any dialogue between characters. It seemed like I was halfway through this book before there were any characters speaking more than one or two sentences. As a result of this verbal vancancy, I found the book to lull me into a state of disinterest.
Not wanting to give away too much plot, I will simply mention that one of the characters is revealed to have done something quite surprising and seemingly without motive. There was really no development of this personality that would lead the reader/listener to even consider this act as requisite to any kind of evolution of the story line. The motive is NEVER explained in the least. And, as quickly as this event is brought to attention, it goes away with barely any significance to the rest of the book.
Like the Seinfeld Show, I found this almost to be a story about nothing. People doing what people do, and the author pleased with the sound of her own voice.
While not a terrible work, I found this book to be quite lacking and unsatisfying. True, Ms.Erdrich's voice and language are soothing and not unpleasant- sort of like a mild sedative. Zzzzzzzzzz
Maybe it was the author's slow, boring voice, but I thought this was one of the slowest and most boring books ever. There is really no main character. There is a weird murder-mystery thrown in but it really didn't add much to the story or the character development. The author makes many statements about the characters, i.e. saying that a character is "intellectually curious" but doesn't ever show the character being intellectually curious. The singing club of the title barely enters into the story. Long, drawn out side trips into the death by cancer of one character and the teenaged love life of another also fail to get the story going in a direction that makes sense. The language was unremarkable as well, making this one of the worst books I have "read" in years. Some people in my book club who read it in print really liked it, but I would definitely avoid the audio book.
View of how hard daily life was in North Dakota in the 20's and 30's.
I appreciated how cyclic the problems were from generation to generation. My paternal grandparents came from a place like Argus, but in South Dakota instead. Grandma's family ran the "County Farm" and Grandad was a worker there. They fell in love and married. I recall my Grandma telling me about a time on the farm when she was not quite a teenager. A hot day, and mosquitos were biting her legs indoors as the family ate dinner. She took a knife and "itched" her leg where the mosquito had bit. In a short while she passed out. She had inadvertently cut her leg quite badly and lost a lot of blood. I remembered that story and when I read about the hardships in North Dakota, I felt a kinship with them.
Reads too slowly.
? No idea
I hae read a number of Erdrich's books. I like how she often draws from the same population of people to write stories--each quite different from the other. I'm sure I have encountered Delphine in one of her other books.
Someone who read this book recommended it to me. Maybe it loses something in the "listen". The author did the story a huge injustice by electing to narrate it. I could not help wondering what a professional (like Scott Brick) might have done with it. Not a listen I would recommend because the poor narrative made it such a difficult read. Very little dialogue and too many long winded descriptions about nothing, really.
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