Title: The Round House
Author: Louise Erdrich
Publication Year: 2012
Setting: North Dakota
Date Completed: October/2012
Rating: 4.5/5Recommend: yes
Back on October 16th, I posted the opening paragraph of The Round House. Here it is again:
"Small trees had attacked my parents' house at the foundation. They were just seedlings with one or two rigid, healthy leaves. Nevertheless the stalky shoots had managed to squeeze through knife cracks in the decorative brown shingles covering the cement blocks. They had grown into the unseen wall and it was difficult to pry them loose. My father wiped his palm across his forehead and damned their toughness. I was using a rusted old dandelion fork with a splintered handle; he wielded a long, slim iron fireplace poker that was probably doing more harm than good. As my father prodded away blindly at the places where he sensed roots might have penetrated, he was surely making convenient holes in the mortar for next year's seedlings."
Several of you who commented thought the intro was symbolic of something to come -- and after finishing this terrific story, I can say many of you were correct. The intro was ominous indeed, and set the tone for much of the story that followed.
The Round House takes the reader back to an Indian reservation in North Dakota in1988. Thirteen year-old Joe Coutts lives with his father, a tribal judge and his mother, a records clerk on the Ojibwe reservation, a job which required her to "know everyone's business". One Sunday afternoon as Joe and his father were pulling weeds from the garden the mother mother, Geraldine heads out to her office to retrieve a high profile file. When she doesn't return by the time dinner time approaches, father and son become concerned and prepare to go look for her. They find her stunned, beaten and bleeding and smelling of gasoline, yet sitting in her car in the driveway of their home.
Who attacked her, and why isn't Geraldine willing to talk about her attack? Why are things so secretive and why isn't Joe told something about the attack at least? Of course bit by bit information about the attack, where it happened or who might be responsible is slowly shared behind the scenes, but from the perspective of Joe, the thirteen year old narrator, all he sees is his once happy and active mother holed up in her room, spiraling into a deep depression and afraid to even leave her room. "Her eyes were black pits...." Joe feels helpless and is not sure what he can to to make his mother feel safe again. Joe has an idea and enlists the help of his buddies, Cappy, Zack and Angus in trying to find out who attacked his mother and plotting what they feel would be appropriate revenge.
Although the theme of this novel is a dark one and one might think it would make for a depressing read, that is not the case. There is so much to hold the readers interest in this story. From the element of mystery with the attack, the adolescent antics of Joe and his friends as they try to find out about the attacker, and the Indian folklore of ghost and ancient myths shared by the elders made this a page turner. The pacing and the way the author took the edge off what could have been too much tension and a depressing story, ended up anything but, in my opinion. Although I thought the ending was a bit abrupt, I was more than satisfied by this novel, and plan to continue reading more by this author.