I have read most if not all, of Erdrich’s novels, so you know I am a fan. This one, while good, historical fiction, felt to busy for me. There were too many stories, too much back and forth in time, too many characters. In fact, it could probably been two books.
It begins with a tragic accident – the fatal shooting of a five year old, by a man hunting deer on his own property. The child’s family, especially his mother, is devastated. To give you a sample of Erdrich’s writing style, this is how she describes Nola’s grief. “Peter had become adept at maintaining an inner equilibrium during the screaming, shouting, foul shouting, rage sorrow, missing, fury, singing, praying and then the ordinary harrowing peace that followed.”
What a description! What fantastic writing!
Landreaux turns to the sweat lodge for guidance and retribution. Following the ancient ways, Landreaux and Emmaline give their five year old son, LaRose, to the grieving parents. “Our son will be your son now.” they tell them.
But this does not heal the wounds and the consequences to both families are deeply disturbing and so very sad.
The back story is the life of various characters and ancestors in residential schools. The loneliness suffered by these children is palpable. Erdrich’s writing is superb and she has the ability to mix the contemporary with the historical, wisdom with foolishness, crimes with punishments, beauty with ugliness. But through it all runs the theme of redemption and this is a challenge for more people than Landreaux.
This is a big, complex book, but it is outstanding. Erdrich’s strength is to successfully mix her twenty-first century characters with ancient Ojibwa lore and religion.
The Round House
The Plague of Doves
……….and many others
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