- Extra-time goal gives Germany World Cup title over Argentina
- Strong quake hits Japan, triggering tsunami
- Sniper heaven: Pentagon’s self-guided bullets leave enemies nowhere to hide
- Violent gang taking advantage of immigration crisis, using border as recruiting hub
- Medicaid enrollment continues to soar under Obamacare, administration says
- Michelle Obama to Latinos: ‘We cannot afford to wait on Congress’ for immigration
- White House urges GOP to act ‘urgently’ on $3.7 billion request for illegal immigrants
- Politicians, criminals using ‘right-to-be-forgotten’ law EU courts forced upon Google
- Combat fatigue: elite special forces troops are ‘fraying,’ Gen. Joseph Votel warns
- German foreign minister to meet Kerry to discuss spying claims
BOOK REVIEW: ‘The Round House’
Question of the Day
THE ROUND HOUSE
By Louise Erdrich
Harper, $27.99, 321 pages
Novelists who can create vivid, plausible, living characters are rare, but novelists who also can create a believable world and a compelling story for those characters are blessed. Louise Erdrich is blessed.
In “The Round House,” her 26th book (14 novels, three books of poetry, two of nonfiction, one of stories and six children’s books) Ms. Erdrich proves once again why she’s often been honored for her writing. In addition to a National Book Critics Circle Award and the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award (the only U.S. prize given for works that foster understanding of issues of racism, diversity and social justice) Ms. Erdrich also has been a finalist for both a Pulitzer and a National Book Award.
That she frequently writes about American Indians should come as no surprise. Her father was of German descent, but her mother was a Turtle Mountain Chippewa, and her mother’s father was a tribal chief. She knows her family history for the past two centuries.
That’s one of the two main reasons why “The Round House” rings so true. The other is that she’s a very good writer. Want to get as close as you’ll ever get to feeling like a 13-year-old Ojibwe boy on a reservation in North Dakota in 1988 or like his tribal judge father or his beautiful, talented and almost murdered mother or his three best pals or his grandfather Mooshum, who knows all the old ways of Indian life? Open this book and begin to read.
Joe Bazil is the protagonist-narrator of “The Round House,” the reservation’s cylindrically shaped meeting house, sweat lodge and religious center. But the building also is the place where his mother, Geraldine Coutts, is brutally attacked and would have been, except for her heroic escape, killed.
When Joe visits her in the hospital, he tells us, “Now I saw my mother’s face puffed with welts and distorted to an ugly shape. She peered through slits in the swollen flesh of her lids.
“‘What happened?’ I asked stupidly.
“She didn’t answer. Tears leaked from the corners of her eyes. She blotted them away with a gauze-wrapped fist. I’m alright, Joe. Look at me. See?
“And I looked at her. But she was not alright.”
Gerry is so traumatized that she is unable — unwilling? — to tell her husband and only child who did it.
Both in the hospital and for a very long time once she’s home, she will not reveal why she went to the office (where she’s a tribal enrollment specialist) on a Sunday to get a specific file. Her lawyer-judge husband tries, within the boundaries of the law he both reveres and lives by, to learn the identity of his wife’s attacker but is frustrated at every turn.
Joe also is frustrated. His mother won’t talk, and his father won’t tell him what little he knows. But an Indian reservation — they call it “the rez” — is a small world, and it doesn’t take Joe long to learn who tried to kill his mother and why the attacker is able to elude the law and eventually walk freely about the reservation and the town.
A 13-year-old boy with a good mind and a loving heart is not going to be held back for long, and soon Joe and his best friend, Cappy, are talking revenge and retribution. And at that point, “The Round House” becomes a thriller, but one with literary, not just whodunit, muscle, as Ms. Erdrich combines psychological insight and crafty plotting to superb effect.
In addition to characterization and plot, the author has mastered many other facets of good writing. Here’s part of her description of the annual summer powwow: “They had coolers — one stuffed with sandwiches, pickles, tubs of baked beans and potato salad, bannock, jelly, crab apples, blocks of commodity cheese. The other cooler was full of hot dogs and cold fried rabbit. Soon, around the camp, Suzette and Josey’s married children started pulling up in their low-slung old cars. When the car doors opened, the grandchildren bounced out like Super Balls. They gathered other children from the neighboring camps and moved through the powwow grounds in a tornado of whirling hair and chasing legs and pumping arms.”
By Robert N. Tracci
Congress must use its appropriations power to secure the border
- DOJ investigates Nebraska parade float critical of Obama
- Violent gang MS-13 taking advantage of immigration crisis, using border as recruiting hub
- A 'new Cold War': China's top paper warns of 'slippery slope' towards conflict with U.S.
- Agency scrubs Malia Obama photos at White House's request: report
- New York City creates ID card so 500K illegal immigrants can get services
- 9-year-old girl dies from brain-eating amoeba
- Pentagon's self-guided bullets leave enemies nowhere to hide
- CURL: The hypocrisy of Obama's 15-day Vineyard vacation
- Armed militia sets up Texas command center to 'fight for national sovereignty'
- Economists see signs of another market bubble
Obama's biggest White House 'fails'
Celebrities turned politicians
Athletes turned actors
20 gadgets that changed the world
Fighting in Iraq
World Cup's sexiest WAGs