I’m a few titles in to this year’s Notable Books List from the American Library Association, and just finished “The Round House” by Louise Erdrich.
One sentence summary–An adult Ojibwe man looks back on his youth, and his response to a brutal sexual attack on his mother.
One sentence evaluation–This is classic Erdrich, excellent writing and even better character development, all wrapped up in contemporary Ojibwe culture–a great book group book.
I find something especially compelling in novels about how crime impacts people. I recently finished another Notable, “Canada” by Richard Ford, with a similar construction of a man looking back on how crimes committed by his parents pulled his family apart.
In “The Round House,” Joe tells the story of events that happened in 1988, his mother not coming home as expected, and then finally arriving home with awful injuries. Watching his parents floundering in response to the attack, he relies on his strong ties with friends and extended family. LIttle by little he comes to understand what happened to his mother; his father’s role as a tribal judge pulls in further information, and interesting aspects of tribal law. When Joe puts in place his response, it’s in the full context of all of the people who have surrounded him.
I’ll recommend this to Erdrich’s fans, and because it has few of the fantastic elements of some of her other books, I think it might work for people who haven’t taken to some of her previous work. I think it’d also be of interest as an outlier for people who read traditional mystery series–a different slant on a crime novel, with an ending that isn’t formula, but is expected in the best storytelling sense of tightening and sharpening the telling toward a dangerously pointed end.