From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Though Erdrich's latest lyrical novel returns to Ojibwe territory (Four Souls; Love Medicine, etc.), it departs from the concentrated vigor of her best work in its breadth of storytelling. Erdrich essays the grief that comes when the sins of parents become mortal for their children. Native American antiquities specialist Faye Travers, bereaved of her sister and father, ambivalently in love with a sculptor who has lost his wife and loses his daughter, stumbles onto a ceremonial drum when she handles the estate of John Jewett Tatro, whose grandfather was an agent at the Ojibwe reservation. Under its spell, she secrets it away and eventually repatriates it to that reservation on the northern plains—the home of her grandmother. The drum is revived, as are those around it. Gracefully weaving many threads, Erdrich details the multigenerational history surrounding the drum. Despite her elegant story and luminous prose, many of the characters feel sketchy compared to Erdrich's previous titans, and several redemptions seem too pat. But even at low voltage, Erdrich crafts a provocative read elevated by beautiful imagery, as when children near death fly off like skeletal ravens. (Sept.)
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Not her best, not her worst, say critics of Erdrichs 10th novel. Yet though its leaner than works like The Master Butchers Singing Club and not as brilliant as others, its pure Erdrich, full of grace, legend, and mysticism. Here, she weaves together three stories, each about mother-child relationships, over time and place. Critics agree that Ojibwe elder Bernard Shaawanos story is the strongest and most memorable; Erdrich renders reservation life impeccably. Fayes story, by contrast, is a little too sentimental; as a character, she is more "dull-plumaged" than interesting (Houston Chronicle). Still, the novel possesses a charming, mystical power, and the story resounds. Despite the serious, ominous tone of the novel, its actually a tale of redemptioneven joy.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.
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