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The Beet Queen: A Novel Paperback – August 22, 2006

3.5 out of 5 stars 47 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"A remarkable and luminous novel."-- Michiko Kakutani, "New York Times"Captivating."-- "Washington Post Book World"A book of power and precision....[Louise Erdrich's] two books together provoke in me amazement and gratitude at this splendid, feisty talent."-- Robert Bly, "New York Times Book Review"Written with extraordinary power, compassion, and insight into the human heart....Erdrich has vaulted into the front ranks of American literature."-- Dan Cryer, "Newsday"The dialogue is brilliant from start to finish. And MAry, Karl, Selestine, Sita, and Dot are all original and powerful characters who, like their relatives in "Love Medicine, left me exhilarated, somewhat drained, and very grateful to this immensely gifted novelist for -- "Chicago Sun-Times"She is a luminous writer and has produced a novel rich in movement, beauty, event. Her prose spins and sparkles, and dances right on the heart when it needs to."-- "Los Angeles Times

From the Back Cover

On a spring morning in 1932, young Karl and Mary Adare arrive by boxcar in Argus, North Dakota. After being orphaned in a most peculiar way, they seek refuge in the butcher shop of their aunt Fritzie and her husband, Pete; ordinary Mary, who will cause a miracle, and seductive Karl, who lacks his sister's gift for survival, embark upon an exhilarating life-journey crowded with colorful, unforgettable characters and marked by the extraordinary magic of natural events.

The bestselling, award-winning author of The Painted Drum, Louise Erdrich dazzles in this vibrant and heartfelt tale of abandonment and sexual obsession, jealousy and unstinting love that explores with empathy, humor, and power the eternal mystery of the human condition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reissue edition (August 22, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060835273
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060835279
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #160,783 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jana L.Perskie HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 7, 2003
Format: Paperback
On a cold spring morning in 1932, fourteen-year old Karl Adare and his eleven-year-old sister, Mary, arrive by freight train in Argus, North Dakota. Abandoned by their mother, they have come to look for their mother's sister, Aunt Fritzie, who runs the House of Meats, a butcher shop, with her husband. The two Adares lose each other. Karl is frightened by a dog and runs back to the boxcar, and Mary runs the other way, toward town. And so begins the forty year saga of a family, and a community.
Through the years the family holds together through the tenacity of relationships, in a fierce and passionate drama, filled with Erdrich's dark humor. Changes sweep across their lives - birth, death, madness. Change also comes in the form of a growing sugar beet industry. Ms. Erdrich story chronicles Mary's life, as she puts down roots in Argus. She also keeps track of the tragic and sensitive dreamer, Karl, on his endless road journeys. He seem to compulsively flee emotional ties, and yet returns to Argus, again and again. At one point Karl says, "I give nothing, take nothing, mean nothing, hold nothing." He struggles with connection - with the past, and with his family and community. Mary's astounding dreams and fantasies also play an incredible and surreal role in the novel.
Themes of parenting and abandonment, jealousy, sexual obsession, and great love play out with passion in Ms. Erdrich's complex and believable characters, as does her portrayal of people's aggression and the self-destructive side of human nature. Her narrative is written with beauty, clarity and pure magic. This is not an easy book to read, nor is it always pleasant. It is, however, well worth the effort.
Like many of her characters, Ms. Erdrich has a foot in two worlds.
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Format: Paperback
I picked up this book at a second hand store. It had a dedication in the inside cover. It had been a gift for Mother's Day, and it read: "To the Queen of the house, because she can't be Beet!".
Erdrich has the special touch to make surreal situations so very believable. I love the parallel drawn with the plane rides, how in one case it is a beautiful woman running away from responsibility, and on the other it is a not-so-graceful woman running away from scorn. The birthday party scene is one of the most hilarious that come to mind, with the cake spinning out of control and Mary still singing Happy Birthday to You, while the guests are showered in frosting. And Mary's fall in the ice and the revered imprint of her face... How surreal can this book get?!?!
In my opinion, it makes sense to read this book first, followed by Love Medicine (93), followed by Tracks (89).
I first learned of Erdrich in some anthology, where i read her short story Fleur (now, that's a scary character, who appears in all three books!)
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Format: Paperback
Louise Erdrich once said that her novels fell "together like a quilt, a crazy quilt,", and The Beet Queen is no exception. The author has constructed a powerful novel out of many voices and individual stories. The novel begins in 1932, with young Mary and Karl Adare getting off a train in Argus, North Dakota by themselves. A moment of fear sends Karl running back to the train, and Mary in the other direction, towards her aunt's house. This division between them sends them on different paths. Mary grows up as the despised cousin of lovely Sita, the foster daughter of Pete and Fritzie who own a butcher shop. Karl is eventually sent back to Minnesota to grow up in a Catholic children's home. The people who know them - Sita, Celestine, the Chamber of Commerce president Wallace Pfef, and finally Dot, the Beet Queen of the title - add their voices to weave a story that goes beyond Karl and Mary to include the entire town of Argus. Spanning forty years, the novel encompasses changes not only within the characters but in the town and the times in general.

Erdrich's characterizations are complex and heartfelt, especially since the multiple points-of-view allow us to see the characters from both inside and out. When characters describe the same incident from different perspectives, we get a deep understanding of what is at stake for each.

The Beet Queen is one of Erdrich's finest novels. Fans of Erdrich's will recognize some of the characters that appeared in the earlier Love Medicine and in her later books, but you don't need to be familiar with the author's work to become engrossed in this one. Highly recommended.
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Format: Paperback
From the mesmerizing first chapter I was hooked. This is an adventure that makes you want to turn the pages quickly. I've noted that others have characterized this book as "bland," yet, isn't that the point? To truly feel the emotional palate of the characters, there can't be a big surprise at every corner. If you finish this book feeling confused, depressed, and a little hungry for her next book, then this author has done her job. If you like "cookie cutter" stories, then this book isn't for you.
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Format: Paperback
Karl and Mary's mother runs off with a stunt pilot in 1929, leaving them to take care of their newborn brother. Who can resist an opening like this? A young couple absconds with the baby, and Karl and Mary hop a train to Argus, ND, where their mother's sister lives. Frightened by a dog in Argus, Karl returns to the train, so that all three siblings grow up separately. Aunt Fritzie and her husband run a butcher shop, which Mary eventually takes over, since their natural daughter, Sita, is more suited to other pursuits, such as department store modeling. Karl returns to Argus as an adult and fathers a daughter, nicknamed Dot, with Mary's close friend Celestine. The author weaves together the stories of all these characters, interleaving their perspectives, into a colorful tapestry of lives that are ordinary and yet compelling. Celestine and Mary both dote on Dot and compete for the affection of this quite impulsive and unruly child. Dot is the center of their universe, and ours, too, as she hoodwinks Mary into thinking that her first grade teacher is a tyrant, knocks out another child's tooth, and wreaks havoc on the Christmas play. Some scenes in the book are hilarious, in a disturbing sort of way, and the author never lets our unfortunate characters get too maudlin. Except for Sita, the women are all strong, impetuous, and singularly unattractive. This latter trait doesn't slow them down, though. Their lives are worthy of our consideration, as we gape at how they respond to various nuisances in a completely unexpected way, with little consideration for the consequences. After reading this book, you'll be a little leery of Jell-O salads. Really.
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