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The Master Butchers Singing Club (2003)

by Louise Erdrich

Series: Love Medicine (related)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,213665,295 (4.05)191
From National Book Award-winning, New York Times-bestselling author Louise Erdrich, a profound and enchanting new novel: a richly imagined world "where butchers sing like angels." 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.… (more)
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    zinschj: Both are stories of post-World War I immigrants struggling with their new lives in America.
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» See also 191 mentions

English (62)  French (2)  German (2)  All languages (66)
Showing 1-5 of 62 (next | show all)
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 |
Departing from her usual Native American characters, this novel focuses on German immigrants. It's just as brilliant as Erdrich's other novels. Strong female characters that overcome obstacles. What I love most about this novel are the little side stories embedded in the broader storyline. I love Erdrich's word choices as she is often able to make me stop and think while reading. It's just phenomenal! ( )
  Beth.Clarke | Jun 12, 2021 |
[Review written by my younger self]
This being the fifth book I've read from the prolific Louise Erdrich, I was at first both disappointed and intrigued by her break from her normal Ojibwe dynasty that make up the residents of a fictional North Dakota town known as Argus. After the first few pages, though, I pleasantly discovered Erdrich had simply widened her character scope to welcome some interesting and likeable characters. Included in this new group is a family of German immigrants, headed by the master butcher, Fidelis, and his steadfast wife, Eva. On the other end is Delphine Watzka, a quietly determined woman who knows, with equal expertise, how to balance chairs on her stomach, how to take care of her town drunk of a father, and how to love Cyprian, a man who for his own reasons may not be as compelled to return her love. Add a few more equally memorable characters to this mix, not to mention a men's singing club, and you are left with lyrically compelling and highly memorable novel.

This is not wholly a story about World War I and World War II, but the wars push their way to the forefront as overpowering aspects of Fidelis and Cyprian's recent past, and as overwhelming aspects of the future of Fidelis and Eva's four sons. Commingled with these conflicts are also conflicts of the heart and body --- a tempered love, a fatal affliction, a desire to care as well as to destroy. Erdrich, just like Delphine with her chairs, plays these elements in a delicate balancing act that creates a sometimes calming, sometimes electrifying flow of words and images.

Rising above this flow, more strongly here than in any of her other novels, is the gift of song. Dedicating the book to "my father, who sang to me", Erdrich uses the power of a good story as a love song to the people and events that charm even the most charmless lives.

Frequent readers of Erdrich may find themselves at a loss with this new cast of characters, though I actually was glad for the change. The humor of her other novels is also present here in smaller doses, and her imagery is vivid, at times almost arresting.

As with other Erdrich novels, though, be prepared to take in many subplots that have within them a valid attraction. I find that I often develop favorite subplots or supporting characters, and sometimes have to remind myself of the others. I did not have to do so in this case, which leads me to believe this novel more compact in its presentation than previous novels. First-time readers of Erdrich need not be hindered by a lack of knowledge about Argus folklore; though the novel does lead to Erdrich's favorite literary shelter, the introduction to the town is skillfully rendered.

In the end, however, it is hard to tell if the feeling readers are left with is bittersweet. The tidal wave that is supposed to consume the main characters in the end seems closer to a shallow puddle, which may or may not be what Erdrich intended in the first place. While this hardly takes away from the enjoyment of the novel, it does leave me wanting more. ( )
  irrelephant | Feb 21, 2021 |
This is a poignant generational novel about relationship, and here, the non-romantic relationships are the ones that take the stage. Erdrich creates a rich cast of characters. I'll be thinking about this book for a long time. ( )
  DrFuriosa | Dec 4, 2020 |
Seems like a book of short stories that are loosely connected. There are at least 5 characters (of 12) who we are introduced to in depth (1-3 chapters), and then never see again. As well, in all of Erdrich's books, so I'm told, she works her native American heritage into the book; this time I think in dream form. The book is brutal; the way people treat each other, the hardness of life and death, and WWII. For me, it was enjoyable in parts, but I wanted those parts to be continued instead of stopped immediately, never to re-appear. Choppy, is perhaps the word I would use as well as abrupt. ( )
  Tess_W | Jul 31, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 62 (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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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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From National Book Award-winning, New York Times-bestselling author Louise Erdrich, a profound and enchanting new novel: a richly imagined world "where butchers sing like angels." 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.

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