Thursday, June 2, 2016

TALES OF BURNING LOVE


Review of TALES OF BURNING LOVE by LOUISE ERDRICH

This novel dissects into two distinct parts: the first follows the collapse of Jack Mauser’s latest marriage while the second features his five former wives trapped together and trading their stories of him.

I liked the second part much better than the first. Erdrich has a knack for plopping the reader into a convincing world, but sometimes it takes a little time to care; the reader doesn’t yet understand what drives the characters. For me at least, the entire first half of the book feels like set up for the second half.

Once I knew some history on Jack’s string of failed marriages, I loved reading their separate stories. Jack feels like a blank slate. Each woman describes a very different relationship with him. As for Jack, he molds himself to each woman but none of it works. One says, “His smile was a counterfeiter’s press.” I love that line.

I adored the first book I ever read by Erdrich, THE ROUND HOUSE,
but have had less enthusiastic feelings for some of her other novels. With TALES OF BURNING LOVE, I recognized some of the clever and unique writing that so enamored me in THE ROUND HOUSE.

It’s worth noting that many of Erdrich’s novels take place in the same universe, with some overlapping characters between books. This makes reading her entire body of work especially worthwhile as it becomes a multi-generational tale of a wider community.

THE ROUND HOUSE still holds the record for my favorite Erdrich book, but TALES OF BURNING LOVE has to be a close second.

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