The Roundhouse by Louise Erdrich


This is the second book I've read this month told by a now-grown narrator about an event that occurred in his teenage years. Though I like the device and found both books to be excellent, I'm ready for a change: my next book will not involve teenage boys drinking beer. Both books are set in the upper midwest, one in Minnesota, this one on a reservation in North Dakota in 1988.  

The event central to this book is the horrific rape, beating and near-killing of the narrator's mother. Because it is not known whether the event occurred on land within the reservation, punishment of the perpetrator will go unpunished by the law. The horror of the event remains present throughout the book, but the pleasures and tribulations of life on the reservation, especially for the four ever-hungry teenage boys is a focus of the book.

Occasionally the writing is merely didactic, but is mostly artful in the wonderful story-telling. The stories whispered by the 112-year-old Mooshum as he sleeps are mesmerizing. The close connections of those on the reservation and knowledge of each other's business is worthy of any small town. There was always another auntie to feed the 13-year old Joe and his friends.  The foursome were careless and foolhardy, but ready to defend each other and to care for an unfortunate person in need. 

The awful statistics of the rape of Native women by non-Natives recounted by the author in the Afterward underscore the author's efforts to change the laws that limit tribes from defending themselves.

Louise Erdrich, The Roundhouse, Harper Collins, 2012, 321 pages (I read the Kindle version).

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