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The Beet Queen by Louise Erdrich
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The Beet Queen (1986)

by Louise Erdrich

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I can't believe it has taken me this long to finally read Louise Erdrich. I was aware of her for at least the last 25 years.

Yes, I should have started with Love Medicine which precedes The Beet Queen, but I didn't know that.

What I find especially remarkable about The Beet Queen is that even though there are many difficult and emotionally-flawed characters in it, I still was compelled to keep reading and kept thinking about them. And Erdrich's writing is lovely in many places. I think she has just gained a new fan. ( )
  ValerieAndBooks | Mar 13, 2017 |
The language is beautiful, the form was impressive, and everything felt real enough. Unfortunately, I found the characters so unlikeable that I just didn't care what happened to them. Really, not a whole lot happened to them anyway. ( )
  StefanieBrookTrout | Feb 4, 2017 |
On a cold spring morning in 1932, fourteen-year old Karl Adare and his eleven-year-old sister, Mary, arrive by freight train in Argus, North Dakota. Abandoned by their mother, they have come to look for their mother's sister, Fritzie, who runs the House of Meats with her husband. The two Adares lose each other. Karl is frightened by a dog and runs back to the boxcar and Mary runs the other way, toward town. So it begins the forty-long story of a community and its people, held together by blood, circumstance, habit, will, and passion. Changes sweep across their lives--in the figures of birth, death, and descent into madness, and in the shape of a growing sugar beet industry. The novel follows the lives of Mary, who stays in Argus and takes over the butcher shop, and Karl, who seems determined to avenge his being cast aside, compulsively returning to and fleeing from all emotional ties. Narrated by various characters, the novel charts Mary's powerful dream life. She is a girl who causes miracles, but she is annoyed by her self-centered and unstable cousin, Sita Kozka. Mary's part-Chippewa childhood friend Celestine James and their lonely neighbor, Wallace Pfef, narrate different sections of the novel. The birth of Wallacette Darlene Adare, Celestine's daughter by Karl, brings together the lives of the characters in surprising ways. Dot sees herself as the "logical outcome" of a "thread beginning with my grandmother Adelaide and travelling through my father and arriving at me. The thread is flight."
  bostonwendym | Mar 3, 2016 |
It's hard to describe how I really feel about Louise Erdrich's The Beet Queen. I knew when Erdrich included a family tree in the beginning of the novel, that it was going to be intense. That's what The Beet Queen was: intense, unfortunate, and heartbreaking.

The Beet Queen tells different narratives from different point of views during 1932-1971 in North Dakota. Mary and Karl Adare are abandoned by their free spirited mother, Adelaide, and their baby brother is stolen during a fair.

They get on a boxcar on their way to their aunt and uncle's house. After arriving, they get split up: Karl winds up being a wandering salesman and Mary finds her aunt and uncle, carving out a life with them, her cousin Sita, and Sita's friend, Celestine.

Their stories and lives intersect. They meet new people. They start new businesses. They start new familes. Sometimes, they go crazy. They die.

The Beet Queen was an epic tale of melacholia. The characters weren't entirely likable. Their motives and actions were questionable. I felt bad for Mary because she ended up alone. I thought that Celestine, who was showed as smart enough, was stupid to sleep with Karl especially since he seemed unhinged from the get-go. Jude had no part in the narrative which was a shame because it could have been more intriguing.

Sita was a mega bitch. She was horrible to Mary and possessive to Celestine. But I felt bad on how she ended up. She went crazy and died and that was that. I hated Dot! She was absolutely atrocious! She was a spoiled unappreciative ingrate and I absolutely abhor reading her parts.

I couldn't help but feel since this is part of a series, and The Beet Queen is not first of it, I felt a bit of a disconnect. ( )
  Y2Ash | Apr 16, 2014 |
Great distinct characters with Erdrich's characteristic feel for time and place. Not to mention the bodily mishaps that wallop nearly every characters (notice that mild, sweet but flawed Wallace was spared?). Alternating chapters from different character's POV worked until near the end. Feel in particular that first person for Dot was so bad. Diction was off for a kid ("gently" followed by "crap" and so on). ( )
  Periodista | Aug 8, 2012 |
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To Michael
Complice in every
word, essential
as air.
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Long before they planted beets in Argus and built the highways, there was a railroad.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0060835273, Paperback)

On a spring morning in 1932, young Karl and Mary Adare arrive by boxcar in Argus, North Dakota. After being orphaned in a most peculiar way, they seek refuge in the butcher shop of their aunt Fritzie and her husband, Pete; ordinary Mary, who will cause a miracle, and seductive Karl, who lacks his sister's gift for survival, embark upon an exhilarating life-journey crowded with colorful, unforgettable characters and marked by the extraordinary magic of natural events.

The bestselling, award-winning author of The Painted Drum, Louise Erdrich dazzles in this vibrant and heartfelt tale of abandonment and sexual obsession, jealousy and unstinting love that explores with empathy, humor, and power the eternal mystery of the human condition.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:36 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

In the early 1930s, Karl and his sister Mary Adare, arrive by boxcar in Argus, a small off-reservation town in North Dakota. Orphaned, they look to their mother's sister Fritzie and her husband for refuge.

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