Thursday, October 17, 2013
The Round House - Take 2
Let's recap, shall we? I posted a "review" of The Round House for a TLC Book Tour last Wednesday. Except that I hadn't finished the book yet because I was unwilling to race through it to finish it in time for the scheduled review.
So very glad I took that extra couple of days to savor Erdrich's story. There is so much going on in this book, so much I'm still thinking about days later. The Round House is a coming-of-age story, a crime novel, and a lesson in American Indian history.
When thirteen-year-old Joe Coutt's Native American mother is raped he is forced to grow up quickly while he and his three buddies continue to do the kinds of things that all boys there age do. Well, as a parent, I would hope that my kids weren't drinking and smoking at that age but it seems perfectly logical for boys growing up on a reservation. This is Joe's story, told by a grown up Joe, but Erdrich surrounds him with memorable characters. Grandfather, Mooshum, brings both humor and the traditional stories to the novel; Father Travis, a former special services officer who brings a new kind of toughness to the Catholic church as well as a new understanding; and Linda a white woman abandoned at birth because of her physical deformities and raised by an Indian family and accepted by the community.
Erdrich mixes plenty of humor into the book to leaven the very serious themes she addresses. I'm not sure where I expected the story to go but I certainly was not prepared for what happened...and then what happened next. Wow. And somewhere along the way, Erdrich managed to make me believe that sometimes vigilante justice may be the only way to deal with evil spirits.
I haven't read many books that address the lives of modern American Indians and the effect of years of legal rulings by white men. The justice system along boggles the mind. Did you know that if a white man commits a crime on a reservation, the tribal authorities have no ability to prosecute them? Commodity foods, poverty and alcoholism are all addressed.
The Round House is, for me, the perfect mix of story, character and lesson.