Friday, September 18, 2015

THE ROUND HOUSE


Review of THE ROUND HOUSE by LOUISE ERDRICH

Shame on me for waiting so long to read a book by Louise Erdrich! I heard her work praised for years, but only recently read this one upon insistence by a fellow reader. Now I already have four more books by Erdrich sitting on my bedside table.

Above anything else, let me say that the writing is exquisite. I’m talking about the kind of stunning ability with words that suggests Erdrich could write about what she ate for breakfast and I would treasure every sentence.

Thankfully, this isn’t a book about what Erdrich eats for breakfast, though. The plot and characters have their fair share of substance as well. I hesitate to describe the plot in too much detail, because Erdrich paces the story so wonderfully I don’t want to ruin anything. I went into the book with close to zero preconceptions regarding its content and wouldn't want to deprive anyone of the same experience I had as I followed the unfolding of a family trauma. Suffice to say that this is a story of a crime committed within an American Indian community. The novel explores both the family impact as well as the tribal politics that can complicate bringing criminals to justice.

At first my only criticism was that the narrator, a thirteen-year-old boy, sounds far too mature for his age. While I “oohed” and “ahhed” over many striking turns of phrase, I didn’t buy them as fitting for a pre-teen’s voice. However, that concern soon proved a moot point, because we learn he’s now a much older man reflecting back on this difficult period of his life when a terrible crime almost crumbled his happy family into debris.

I do have one remaining criticism of the book: the end. The novel finishes with a climatic finale that cuts off without any denouement, clarification, or resolution. That being said, I want to call attention to how rare it is that I read a book where I have only one single negative thing to say.

For the writing alone, this book is a rare find. The characters feel as though they live and breath beside you as they lead the reader into their world: their homes, their families, their problems. An excellent book group selection, a must-read for anyone studying writing as a craft, and a gripping story even for some who might not think it their taste at first description. I have already started another book by Erdrich and have three more lined up after that.

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