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The Master Butchers Singing Club (2003)

by Louise Erdrich

Series: Love Medicine (related)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,382726,142 (4.05)214
Returning to his quiet German village home after World War I, trained killer Fidelis Waldvogel, accompanied by his wife, leaves to start a new life in America and finds his life irrevocably changed by a new relationship.
  1. 10
    The Turtle Catcher by Nicole Lea Helget (zinschj)
    zinschj: Both are stories of post-World War I immigrants struggling with their new lives in America.
  2. 00
    Fall on Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald (ainsleytewce)

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» See also 214 mentions

English (67)  German (2)  French (2)  Spanish (1)  All languages (72)
Showing 1-5 of 67 (next | show all)
Ok. Some parts better than others ( )
  Fromie | Nov 28, 2023 |
Louise Erdrich is best known for novels that explore her Native American heritage and are set in the Dakotas. In The Master Butchers Singing Club, Erdrich reaches back into her European ancestry with a sprawling saga featuring German and Polish immigrants. Central to the story is Delphine, a young woman who returns to her hometown after a stint performing in a vaudeville act. Delphine befriends Eva, the wife of the town’s German butcher, and she assists Eva in running the shop, and her life becomes increasingly entwined with Eva’s family … and to avoid spoilers, I’ll stop there.

Delphine’s story unfolds over a period of about 20 years. A large number of characters come and go, and family secrets are ever present in the background. Erdrich is an amazing storyteller, able to juggle a complex web of subplots and make it all work out in the end. That said, the last third of the novel was told in less detail, with larger gaps of time between chapters. Some characters were abruptly written out of the story, with insufficient detail and emotion. The last chapter is perhaps the most beautiful part of the novel, almost as if Erdrich wrote this first and then created a novel to showcase it. The journey was worth it. ( )
  lauralkeet | Apr 22, 2023 |
Fidelis, a former WWI German sniper, marries Eva, his deceased friend’s pregnant fiancé, and emigrates from Germany to Argus, North Dakota, to establish a butcher’s shop. Delphine, daughter of an alcoholic single father, meets Cyprian, a former WWI US Marine, and they create a traveling acrobatic act. They eventually return to Argus and pretend to be married to avoid gossip. Delphine and Eva become fast friends, and the storyline follows their converging lives from WWI to several years past WWII.

The strengths of this novel include deeply drawn characters and an unusual plotline. The characters are complex, filled with internal contradictions. For example, Fidelis is a butcher so he seems rather unfeeling in his work of constantly killing animals, but he possesses a beautiful singing voice and treats his family with tenderness. Even the minor characters exhibit a unique identity and emotional depth.

War and its ongoing impact are recurrent themes. Initially, war affects Cyprian and Fidelis, but the next war wreaks havoc on Fidelis’s sons. The plot includes such diverse elements as the discovery of three bodies in a cellar, a sexual identity crisis, and a tie-in with the Wounded Knee massacre. There are a few brutal scenes, mostly involving animals. Several mysteries get set up and are not always resolved. It is rich in period details and beautifully written. By the end, the author has taken the reader in unexpected directions and several secrets are revealed.
( )
  Castlelass | Oct 30, 2022 |
Having survived World War I, Fidelis Waldvogel returns to his quiet German village and marries the pregnant widow of his best friend, killed in action. With a suitcase full of sausages and a master butcher's precious knife set, Fidelis sets out for America. In Argus, North Dakota, he builds a business, a home for his family—which includes Eva and four sons—and a singing club consisting of the best voices in town. When the Old World meets the New—in the person of Delphine Watzka—the great adventure of Fidelis's life begins. 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 novel. ( )
  jepeters333 | May 27, 2022 |
Old World beauty and tradition settling in on the North Dakota plains. I couldn't believe how much kept happening throughout this book...stirred me to my core each time I turned the page. ( )
  LibroLindsay | Jun 18, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 67 (next | show all)
Amazon.com Review
Louise Erdrich's The Master Butchers Singing Club is a powerfully told story of love, death, redemption, and resurrection. After German soldier Fidelis Waldvogel returns home from World War I to marry his best friend's pregnant widow, he packs up his father's butcher knives and sets sail for America. ....
added by eigram | editAmazon.com, Gisele Toueg (Jul 24, 2009)

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Love Medicine (related)
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To my father, who sang to me.
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Fidelis walked home from the great war in twelve days and slept thirty-eight hours once he crawled into his childhood bed.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Returning to his quiet German village home after World War I, trained killer Fidelis Waldvogel, accompanied by his wife, leaves to start a new life in America and finds his life irrevocably changed by a new relationship.

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