Saturday, December 01, 2012

“The Round House” by Louise Erdrich – Coming of Age Like You’ve Never Seen It

The Round House by Louise Erdrich - book cover
Release date: October 2, 2012
Publisher: Harper
Pages: 336
Amazon(US) |  Amazon(CA) |  Amazon(UK)

On a calm Sunday just like any other, a woman by the name of Geraldine Coutts, who lives on a reservation in North Dakota, receives a call which asks her to head over to The Round House, a place where the local people pray. As Geraldine arrives though, she is brutally assaulted and left for dead. Fortunately, she survives the ordeal, but is reluctant to reveal what happened or who did it, being in a complete state of shock.

Her husband, a tribal judge, puts all of his efforts and energy into finding the ones responsible and bringing them to justice… however, all odds are stacked against him. In the middle of this turmoil is the couple’s thirteen year-old, Joe. Being unable to help his mother and at the same time frustrated by the lack of justice, he sets out with the help of his three friends, Zack, Cappy and Angus, on an quest to bring the truth to light. The Round House by Louise Erdrich isn’t a National Book Award Winner for nothing (or at least I believe it deserves it).

There are two main storylines superimposed upon one another, neither of them being more interesting or compelling than the other. On one hand, we have the investigation into the crime; it was brutal and violent, but more importantly, there are very few leads to follow. However, as in any good mystery novel, slowly but surely the truth unravels, culminating into an explosive and surprising climax.

On the other hand, there is the story of Joe, who is forced to basically do a policeman’s job while only being thirteen. As you can guess, he is thrust into the brutal and gritty world of adulthood being far from ready for it. The second story revolves around Joe’s journey of self-discovery and his ability to adapt to the most extreme circumstances, learning how to survive in the unforgiving world of adulthood.

All in all, while I’m generally not too fond of stories which are very drama-heavy, this one surprised me quite pleasantly. While the suffering of Geraldine is an essential element to the plot, it’s not dwelled on more time than necessary; for most part, the pages are filled with intense and captivating events which work wonders in building up a sense of danger, and most importantly, a realistic brutality.

There is no superman to swoop in at the last second, nor is there some kind of miracle waiting to happen; this novel shows how the character’s worlds are in excruciating detail without holding back on the more shocking parts, and I praise it for giving me this breath of fresh air I've been longing for.

Louise Erdrich (June 7, 1954)

Louise Erdrich (June 7, 1954)

Louise Erdrich is an American novelist hailing from Minnesota. Much of her work revolves around poetry and children’s novels, and most particularly, Native Americans. She received the National Book Award for Fiction for The Round House, and is even a part of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians.

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