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The Round House by Louise Erdrich
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The Round House (original 2012; edition 2012)

by Louise Erdrich

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
2,2981842,766 (3.97)1 / 379
Member:mdoris
Title:The Round House
Authors:Louise Erdrich
Info:Harper (2012), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 336 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****1/2
Tags:read in 2012

Work details

The Round House by Louise Erdrich (2012)

  1. 40
    To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (JenMDB)
  2. 30
    The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (Caramellunacy)
    Caramellunacy: Alexie's Absolutely True Diary shows a teenager (a little older than Joe) struggling with the poverty, alcoholism and injustice found on the reservation and the bullying and racism he faces from the outside world. A similar theme of the heartaches of growing up on a reservation in an unjust world - Alexie's work shows more humor, though.… (more)
  3. 20
    The Plague of Doves by Louise Erdrich (Limelite, BookshelfMonstrosity)
    Limelite: Not exactly a prequel, but featuring several of the same characters that appear in this more recent novel.
    BookshelfMonstrosity: If you want to read more about the characters and events portrayed in The Round House, read The Plague of Doves, which shares characters and events with the later novel.
  4. 10
    Midwives by Chris Bohjalian (sweetiegherkin)
    sweetiegherkin: Both books deal with a huge family crisis (the rape of the mother in The Round House, the trial of the mother in Midwives) and are told from the point of view of the family's 12- to 14-year-old only child, interspersing the tragic with the everyday life of a preteen/teen; both books also have unexpected endings.… (more)
  5. 00
    Waylaid by Ed Lin (Othemts)
  6. 11
    A Time to Kill by John Grisham (Caramellunacy)
    Caramellunacy: Less literary and as a legal thriller more focused on the courtroom drama, but Grisham's A Time To Kill focuses on similar problems of racism and unspeakable crimes and the drive for the victim's family to seek revenge.
  7. 00
    Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese (Iudita)
  8. 00
    Shadow Tag by Louise Erdrich (JenMDB)
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English (164)  Spanish (4)  All (168)
Showing 1-5 of 164 (next | show all)
This book started out good, but then it bogged down with filler material, but the last 70 pages were good. I didn't like the use of the F word time and time again, plus some other choice words. This book would have received 4 stars if not for the filler stuff and the F word. The storyline itself was a good one; however, the ending.........left me scratching my head. ( )
  travelgal | Feb 19, 2017 |
It's the spring of 1988 and thirteen-year-old Joe and his father, Bazil, realize that mom hasn't come home to start dinner as expected. Bazil and Joe pile into their vehicle to find her and find her they do. Geraldine has been brutally assaulted and will not, or cannot, say by whom. Clearly, their lives are never to be the same. As details of the assault emerge, along with pieces of the family and reservation history that may have bearing on the underlying reasons for the assault, we witness Joe's coming of age and coming to consciousness. He is determined to know what happened, holding firmly to a belief that justice (retribution?) is the most critical key to returning his secure family life to him. Joe is a lovable, flawed, deeply good, and believably adolescent protagonist and first-person narrator. His father, who "had a profile that would look Indian on a movie poster, Roman on a coin", is also lovable. He is a tribal judge and thereby represents both the hand of justice and the long-sighted role of tribal elders in navigating relations with a US government still determined to renege on promises, ancient and recent. The question of jurisdiction in this crime provides the perfect device for illustrating the tenuous position of American Indians living on reservation within a larger governmental administration physically and bureaucratically surrounding it. But this novel does not get lost in political statements. It is, first and most, a story of a family and a culture, beset by poverty and oppression but also thriving in their love for one another and their persistent hope.

"That we have a real grocery store on our reservation is no small thing. It used to be that, besides the commodity warehouse, food came from the tiny precursor store -- Puffy's Place. The old store sold mainly nonperishable items -- tea, flour, salt, peanut butter -- plus surplus garden vegetables or game meat. It sold beadwork, moccasins, tobacco, and gum. For real food our people had traveled off reservation twenty miles or more to put our money in the pockets of store clerks who watched us with suspicion and took our money with contempt. But with our own grocery now, run by our own tribal members and hiring our own people to bag and stock, we had something special. Even though the pop machine out front was banged in, the magic doors swished shut on slow grandmas, and children smudged the gumball machine until you couldn't see the colors of the candy, it was our very own grocery. Trucks came to it, like a regular store, stocked it, then drove away."

This passage so straightforwardly captures the contempt the residents of the reservation felt directed toward them when forced to shop off-reservation, and the power of something as simple as having their own grocery. It's also an example of Erdrich's magnificently simple and eloquent prose. "...the magic doors swished shut on slow grandmas..." -- I love that.

We do learn more about the details of the crime as we watch Joe grow up. While he is obsessed with finding some resolution for his mother's assault, he is also a thirteen-year-old boy and Erdrich captures that with finesse and compassion. This is a novel about the terrible power of revenge, both for healing and for devastation, but it is also just a story of human love.

This is a remarkable novel, absolutely recommended. ( )
4 vote EBT1002 | Feb 19, 2017 |
Update 8/2014: Read in 2012 and read again as an audio book in 2014 for book club:

The story is told from the perspective of Joe, a 13 year old boy living on a reservation in the late 1980s with his father, a tribal judge, and his mother. The book opens following the brutal rape and attempted murder of his mother and Joe must deal not only with the after-effects of the crime on his mother (and the entire family), but with the injustice of the legal system on Indian reservations. Joe is frustrated and feels he and his group of friends must investigate the crime and seek justice for his mother when it becomes clear that there will be no recourse through the tribal law justice system. Tribal courts can’t prosecute non-Native people who commit crimes on native land. In addition, the rape occurred on a strip of land without clear jurisdiction of state vs federal law so there’s no recourse from the federal government either. (As an aside, the afterward Erdrich wrote is startling and sobering with statistics on crimes against Native Americans on reservations).

The perspective of 13 year old Joe is sometimes interspersed with narrative from the now-adult Joe as he looks back on the events of that Spring. This is a coming of age story, along with a lesson in tribal justice, reservation life, and the traditions, spirituality and myths of the Ojibwe tribe. There’s a cast of colorful characters in Joe’s life, all with interesting, sometimes amusing tales to tell. The history of the round house is told through the stories of Joe’s grandfather, Mooshum. The history and traditions of the old tribal ways of dealing with criminals is contrasted with the Christian teachings of the reservation priest, Father Travis. Meanwhile, Joe and his friends are also dealing with the typical concerns of adolescence.

The pace is leisurely, and builds slowly towards a shocking conclusion. The reader is left with a lot to ponder. Highly recommended!

( )
  janb37 | Feb 13, 2017 |
Superb and I'd like to read everything this author has written. Erdrich is an award-winning writer and it shows. This book is narrated by a 13-year-old boy, flawlessly. Joe lives on a reservation with relatives and friends. His father is a judge. One day his mother is brutally attacked and a teenager with a baby goes missing. The baby is spared and soon the governor is trying to adopt the child. Joe's mother is destroyed -- she won't eat and stays in her room, mostly unresponsive. Joe and his father aim to find out who perpetrated this crime.

Joe and his friends find clues and also spend time together much as any boyhood friends do. The story includes other residents on the reservation and other family members and their lives. I loved the details, all of them. The reader learns about Native American life on a reservation and a bit about the laws, which still need changing. One of the elders tells stories. The book is beautifully written.

It's also a mystery/suspense drama. I highly recommend the book. ( )
  Rascalstar | Jan 21, 2017 |
I've rated this book 3 stars: it's superbly written but it's too disturbing to say that I liked it. My thoughts are at https://anzlitlovers.com/2016/12/31/the-round-house-by-louise-erdrich/
  anzlitlovers | Jan 9, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 164 (next | show all)
With “The Round House,” her 14th novel, Louise Erdrich takes us back to the North Dakota Ojibwe reservation that she has conjured and mapped in so many earlier books, and made as indelibly real as Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County or Joyce’s Dublin. This time she focuses on one nuclear family — the 13-year-old Joe Coutts; his mother, Geraldine; and his father, Judge Antone Coutts — that is shattered and remade after a terrible event.

Although its plot suffers from a schematic quality that inhibits Ms. Erdrich’s talent for elliptical storytelling, the novel showcases her extraordinary ability to delineate the ties of love, resentment, need, duty and sympathy that bind families together. “The Round House” — a National Book Award finalist in the fiction category — opens out to become a detective story and a coming-of-age story, a story about how Joe is initiated into the sadnesses and disillusionments of grown-up life and the somber realities of his people’s history.
 
“The Round House” represents something of a departure for Erdrich, whose past novels of Indian life have usually relied on a rotating cast of narrators, a kind of storytelling chorus. Here, though, Joe is the only narrator, and the urgency of his account gives the action the momentum and tight focus of a crime novel, which, in a sense, it is. But for Erdrich, “The Round House” is also a return to form.
added by zhejw | editNew York Times, Maria Russo (Oct 12, 2012)
 
Each new Erdrich novel adds new layers of pathos and comedy, earthiness and spiritual questing, to her priceless multigenerational drama. “The Round House’’ is one of her best — concentrated, suspenseful, and morally profound.
 
Our reviewer, Alan Cheuse, is always in pursuit of great new books. And today, Louise Erdrich's latest "The Round House." I interviewed her earlier this week about the novel. Now, here's Alan's take and he says it's her best yet.
 
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To Pallas
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Small trees had attacked my parents' home at the foundation.
Quotations
"Women don't realize how much store men set on the regularity of their habits," Joe says. "Our pulse is set to theirs, and as always on a weekend afternoon we were waiting for my mother to start us ticking away on the evening."
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Book description
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 thirteen-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. Amazon description.
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When his mother, a tribal enrollment specialist living on a reservation in North Dakota, slips into an abyss of depression after being brutally attacked, 14-year-old Joe Coutz sets out with his three friends to find the person that destroyed his family.… (more)

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