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LaRose by Louise Erdrich

LaRose (2016)

by Louise Erdrich

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Showing 1-5 of 42 (next | show all)
Not a spoiler, because it occurs in the first chapter of this book--Landreau Iron is hunting, stalking a deer, and accidentally kills his neighbor’s 5-year old son, Dusty. To atone for his role in the accident, Landreau resorts to “the old ways” and gives to his neighbor’s family his own son. The premise of this book, that a man can atone for his accidental killing of a child by giving to the victim’s family his own 5-year old boy, is a difficult idea to process. My initial reaction was that this man, in order to clear his own conscience, was subjecting his wife and his son and his other children to an inhuman and unnecessary deprivation. Like Abraham sacrificing Isaac on the altar, it is the worst punishment that could be required, but I could not help thinking it was visiting the sins of the father upon the son, and grossly unfair. I wondered how it could help the other mother to have this child filling the place of her own son, as if one child could ever replace another.

That was my initial reaction. Deeper into the book, I saw this in a different light. I felt that LaRose, the child who is given away, had a great purpose and was the key to having all the members of both families survive this tragedy. In his person is embodied the way of healing the unhealable loss. The grief that runs through this story is palpable. It flows like a river around all the characters and it sweeps them along and plunges them down rapids that they cannot escape or navigate. Only LaRose seems to know how to deal with each of them and the dead boy head on. I loved this child, whose old-soul wisdom made his spiritual lineage believable and sweet.

Louise Erdrich incorporates Indian mysticism into the novel without breaking the credibility of the story. I enjoyed the parts of the book that dealt with the five previous generations of family members named LaRose. But, I particularly liked the side-story of Romeo and Landreau. Romeo seemed to be a character outside the main story, but Erdrich connected the dots and made him an important piece of the main plot. It would have been so easy to see him as a worthless person, but the threads of his story reveal him slowly and caused me to redefine my initial assessment. I think one of the strengths of this novel is the way it makes you continually rethink your feelings and understanding of these people and their relationships to one another.

This is my first Erdrich and I know now that I must go back and read The Round House, which is purported to be her finest work. I appreciate the authenticity of her writing and the depths to which she can plumb this culture and make me feel both how different and unique this culture is and at the same time how universally human. ( )
  phantomswife | Jul 6, 2018 |
Landreaux Iron, an Ojibwe man accidentally shoots and kills his friend's son. Peter Ravich is not Aboriginal, though his wife is 50% Ojibwe, and a half-sister to Landreaux's own wife, Emmaline. Following ancient tradition, Landreaux gives his own son, LaRose, to Peter and his wife as retribution. This is a fascinating premise for a story, but I found the actual execution of it a bit weak. LaRose, at only five years of age, rises valiantly to the occasion and his brothers and sisters seem to be okay with it as well. I felt the real human emotions of living with such a decision weren't examined.

In spite of that, I enjoyed the book. It's a story of a family coping with life, and it also tells the history of the family going back several generations. It looks at Indian life, with the prejudices, the horrors of residential schools, and the healing powers of ancient traditions. It's well written, as are all of Ms. Erdrich's books and I'll continue to be a fan. ( )
1 vote LynnB | Apr 15, 2018 |
LaRose easily jumps to the top of the list of my favorite books of 2016. It is a beautiful novel of love and atonement. The story takes place in the same geographic region as Plague of Doves and Round House: the small, fictional town of Pluto, North Dakota, and the Ojibwe reservation next to it.

LaRose begins with heartbreak. While hunting a deer that Landreaux Iron has been tracking all season, he accidentally shoots his neighbor’s five-year-old son, Dusty Ravich. This is not a spoiler, it happens on page two. To make amends, Landreaux and his wife Emmaline follow a tradition of their ancestors, and give their own young son LaRose to the Ravich family in atonement, as an “old form of justice”. Young LaRose steps up to the role, helping to heal the hearts of both families.

The roots of the story go back to the Ojibwe culture that Erdrich herself hails from, and is the story of families and tragedies that span generations.

As we come to find out, the accidental shooting was not the first tragedy, and LaRose is descended from a long line of healers, back to the original LaRose. Tragedies follow the LaRose lineage, from the selling of the first LaRose in the 1800s to a trader, through boarding schools, sexual abuse, tuberculosis, and the desecration of remains. LaRose is a name that has been passed through five generations, and in each generation, the name is given to one who has a connection to the spirit world.

But this is not a story about grief and tragedy. It is a story of love and redemption, about the way people live, and how they rebuild their lives back together. Louise Erdrich’s story acknowledges that, to many American Indians, the pain and pleasures of the past are not forgotten, but become the foundation on which the present is built. In the novel, this is portrayed through the very home of the Iron family.

Erdrich provides a rich backstory spanning generations, in which the reader gets a better idea of how the parallel stories form and influence the present.

One theme present in the story of the earlier generations of LaRose, is the difference between the Ojibwe values and the American culture under which the Ojibwe had to live. This is specifically highlighted in the boarding school experiences. One of the boarding schools mentioned in the novel, Carlisle Indian Industrial School, existed only a few miles away from where I grew up. As an adult, I was shocked to first become aware of its existence when visiting the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona. At the time, I was astonished that the Carlisle School never made an appearance in the history books of my high school. A slightly older, wiser me now knows better. I now actively work to bring the stories and histories that are often unheard by white Americans to the forefront, at least with my own daughter.

LaRose is a powerful exploration of justice and reparation. A novel incredibly difficult to review but easy to love. I highly, highly recommend it, especially if you are a fan of Erdrich’s earlier work. ( )
  abergsman | Mar 20, 2018 |
This is a beautiful book. I am grateful for Erdrich's talent of bringing out the universal through the specific. Her novels give me a glimpse into the complex layers of Native American life which I will never know, yet somehow, I feel I know. I don't know how she does this, but it's a testimony to her literary power. She's an expert artist who creates a fictional world the reader wants to return to again and again. She layers her stories from the points of view of multiple characters, telling without showing. More masterful is how she layers her stories over generations, blending the ancient with the new. It's deeply spiritual and alive. And funny. For such serious subject matter, one family's efforts to atone for another's accidental death by offering them their only son, LaRose, their is a wry sense of humor to lighten a heavy load. I'm not giving specifics, but the book is highly lauded by critics. You can read their reviews for details. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/22/books/review/larose-by-louise-erdrich.html
https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/books/louise-erdrichs-larose-a-gun-accident-sets-off-a-masterly-tale-of-grief-and-love/2016/05/09/e719aa04-1215-11e6-8967-7ac733c56f12_story.html ( )
  MsKathleen | Jan 29, 2018 |
Every time I read a novel by Louise Erdrich I feel like I am catching up with old friends. Each book I have read is a new story but some people from previous books make an appearance. It's just like sitting down with an old friend that you haven't seen in a long time and finding out what has been happening in their lives since you last saw each other. I listened to this book which was read by the author which gave the experience another layer of enjoyment.

Landreaux Iron is out hunting one day and finds a magnificent buck close to home. Just as he shoots it his neighbour's son, Dusty, drops out of a tree above the buck and into the line of fire. Dusty is killed instantly and Landreaux feels horrible. Dusty was the same age as his own son, LaRose, and the two often played together. Dusty's father, Peter, is a good friend of Landreaux and Dusty's mother, Nola, is his own wife's half-sister. Landreaux remembers that in the Ojibway history, children were often given to families who had lost their own child so he takes LaRose to Peter and Nola for them to raise. LaRose is a special boy. He misses his own mother and father but he learns to love Peter and Nola and especially Maggie, Dusty's older sister. He also has an ability to see and talk with the spirits of people who have died, including Dusty. With time the two families learn how to share custody of LaRose and accept each other. The fly in the ointment is provided by Romeo, a broken man, addicted to pain killers, who used to be a good friend to Landreaux. He blames Landreaux for his present circumstances and learns information that he thinks will turn Peter against Landreaux.

Another enjoyable book from Erdrich. ( )
  gypsysmom | Dec 21, 2017 |
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and for every LaRose
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Where the reservation boundary invisibly bisected a strand ofdeep brush—chokecherry, popple, stunted oak—Landreaux waited.
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North Dakota, late summer, 1999. Landreaux Iron stalks a deer along the edge of the property bordering his own. He shoots with easy confidence - but when the buck springs away, Landreaux realizes he's hit something else, a blur he saw as he squeezed the trigger. When he staggers closer, he realizes he has killed his neighbor's five-year-old son, Dusty Ravich. The youngest child of his friend and neighbor, Peter Ravich, Dusty was best friends with Landreaux's five-year-old son, LaRose. The two families have always been close, sharing food, clothing, and rides into town; their children played together despite going to different schools; and Landreaux's wife, Emmaline, is half sister to Dusty's mother, Nola. Horrified at what he's done, the recovered alcoholic turns to an Ojibwe tribe tradition - the sweat lodge - for guidance, and finds a way forward. Following an ancient means of retribution, he and Emmaline will give LaRose to the grieving Peter and Nola. "Our son will be your son now," they tell them.… (more)

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