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Shadow Tag: A Novel by Louise Erdrich
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Shadow Tag: A Novel (edition 2010)

by Louise Erdrich

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6734414,218 (3.46)76
Member:jlshall
Title:Shadow Tag: A Novel
Authors:Louise Erdrich
Info:Harper (2010), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 272 pages
Collections:Your library, To read
Rating:
Tags:American literature, fiction

Work details

Shadow Tag by Louise Erdrich

  1. 10
    Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates (cafepithecus)
  2. 10
    Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? by Edward Albee (tangledthread)
    tangledthread: The plot lines are very similar
  3. 10
    A Disorder Peculiar to the Country by Ken Kalfus (novelcommentary)
    novelcommentary: Very modern novel where the events of 9/11 are integral to the plot. Told in alternating views, a unhappily married couple do their best to destroy each other.
  4. 00
    A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick (tangledthread)
    tangledthread: Both novels deal with trust and deception in marriage. Also both take place in an upper midwestern U.S. winter.
  5. 00
    My Wife's Affair by Nancy Woodruff (akblanchard)
    akblanchard: Another look at a disintegrating marriage.
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» See also 76 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 44 (next | show all)
This book tells the story of a marriage that is different from any other that I have read about. Gil is a painter and his wife, Irene, has been the subject of most of his paintings. They drink a lot and argue a lot, generally with Irene begging him to let her leave the marriage and Gil telling her that he is too in love with her to let that happen. Most marriages in fiction are extremes---either people are blissfully in love or they hate each other---but Gil and Irene's marriage feels different because they have the mixture of love, habit, aggravation, boredom and devotion that seems to exist in a lot of real life marriages.
They have three children who circle around their arguing parents in the way the children of troubled marriages do, alternately trying to pacify them and hoping to push them apart. Gil and Irene are both part Native American and one of their children, Riel, fears at any moment that some calamity will occur and begins preparing for it by trying to imitate the old Indian ways she has heard about.
There is an ending and some literary tricks that reminded me some of Gillian Flynn's "Gone Girl". However, this book seemed to use those tools in a more measured and refined way.
I really admired the way that the author wove the descriptions of the winter time Minnesota landscape around the story in a way that made the cold seem like another character. ( )
  elmoelle | Aug 9, 2013 |
Strange story about two people severely in need of couple's counseling. ( )
  luvlylibrarian | Jun 27, 2013 |
The ending was heartbreaking. ( )
  allison.sivak | Jun 24, 2013 |
I got this book as part of Powell’s Books amazing Indispensable subscription club that delivers exciting new titles to your door. Usually the book is a signed first edition in a custom slipcase and they’ll pack a bunch of other loosely related goodies in the box. Very cool way to get titles you might not pick yourself but have been carefully vetted out by people I trust to know a good book.

Louise Erdrich’s Shadow Tag is one such book. I probably would not have purchased this book even though it sounds interesting on the back and has a Native American connection. I love books about Native Americans and have increasingly been interested in literature by them as a glimpse into their culture and current issues. This book did not disappoint.

One issue explored by this book is the relationship between an artist and his muse. What happens when that person is also your wife and lover? Gil had been warned against using Irene as his model by another artist early in his career but became famous for his revealing, provocative, obsessive representations of her. He thought it would be alright since “…Hopper had painted Jo, Rembrandt had painted Saskia, then Hendrickje. Wyeth had painted Betsy and of course Helga; Bonnard had painted Marthe; there was the limitless and devouring Picasso; de Kooning and Kitaj and John Currin painted their wives.”

This family has some serious issues and the ominous writing (no pun intended) is on the wall from the first paragraph when you see Irene keeping two diaries. One is a manipulative dummy since she has realized that Gil is reading her diaries. The other is the real diary kept in a safety deposit box at the bank. There three children watch everything unravel: Florian is the boy genius at 14, Riel the 11 year old that decides that when a disaster strikes she will have to be the one to save the family, and the oblivious 5 year old Stoney who takes comfort with his stuffed animals whenever the violence and abuse gets too acute. Florian, obsessed with physics, describes his dad as a black hole and his mom as approaching the Schwarzchild radius, that distance from the black hole from which no light can escape. This turns out to be a brilliant analogy of Irene’s orbit around Gil. DTMFA, Irene! She tries half-heartedly and co-dependently but the physics are physics.

This can be a raw book if you have gone through the dissolution of a marriage with kids but the writing is powerful and the narrative drives inexorably towards it’s conclusion. Thank you Powell’s for introducing me to Louise Erdrich.

For more book reviews, including the physical book and overall reading experience, visit my blog The Whole Book Experience at http://www.thewholebookexperience.com/ ( )
  jveezer | Jun 10, 2013 |
For the writing it should be a 4, but I just struggle with the level of angst ( )
  lindap69 | Apr 5, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 44 (next | show all)
in places, “Shadow Tag” seems more like notes for a novel than fully realized fiction. Elsewhere, though, Erdrich’s unbridled urgency yields startlingly original phrasing (“the christbirthing pinecone air”) as well as flashes of blinding lucidity.
 
I left the novel with mixed feelings. Despite its psychological acuity, and the tenderness the author has for the kids, I mostly felt trapped in a stifling space with a rather unlikable couple. I hope that in her next novel, Erdrich opens some windows.
 
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November 2, 2007
Blue Notebook

I have two diaries now.
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Falling in love is falling into knowledge. Enduring love comes when we love most of what we learn about the other person and can tolerate the faults they cannot change.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Chronciles the emotional war between Irene America, a beautiful, introspective woman of Native American ancestry, struggling to finish her dissertation while raising three children, and her husband Gil, a painter whose reputation is built on a series of now iconic portraits of Irene.… (more)

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