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The Plague of Doves: A Novel (P.S.) Paperback – May 12, 2009

3.9 out of 5 stars 242 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Erdrich's 13th novel, a multigenerational tour de force of sin, redemption, murder and vengeance, finds its roots in the 1911 slaughter of a farming family near Pluto, N.Dak. The family's infant daughter is spared, and a posse forms, incorrectly blames three Indians and lynches them. One, Mooshum Milk, miraculously survives. Over the next century, descendants of both the hanged men and the lynch mob develop relationships that become deeply entangled, and their disparate stories are held together via principal narrator Evelina, Mooshum Milk's granddaughter, who comes of age on an Indian reservation near Pluto in the 1960s and '70s and forms two fateful adolescent crushes: one on bad-boy schoolmate Corwin Peace and one on a nun. Though Evelina doesn't know it, both are descendants of lynch mob members. The plot splinters as Evelina enrolls in college and finds work at a mental asylum; Corwin spirals into a life of crime; and a long-lost violin (its backstory is another beautiful piece of the mosaic) takes on massive significance. Erdrich plays individual narratives off one another, dropping apparently insignificant clues that build to head-slapping revelations as fates intertwine and the person responsible for the 1911 killing is identified. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* “Every so often something shatters like ice and we are in the river of our existence. We are aware.” Those are the moments Erdrich captures in this mesmerizing novel set in Pluto, North Dakota, a white town on the edge of an Ojibwe reservation. Founded out of white greed, the town is now dying, deserted by both industry and its young people. Evelina, a girl of mixed Indian and white descent, hears many family stories from her irascible grandfather, Mooshum, who has learned to deal with the deep sorrow in his life by practicing the patient art of ridicule (his sly baiting of the local priest is one of many comic highlights). Evelina also learns about the town’s long, bloody history, including the slaughter of a white farm family and the hanging of innocent Native Americans unfairly targeted as the perpetrators of the crime. Over succeeding generations, descendants of both the victims and the lynching party intermarry, creating a tangled history. Throughout Erdrich deploys potent, recurring images—a dance performed to thwart the plague of doves destroying crops, the heartbreaking music of a violin, an athletic nun rounding the bases in her flowing habit—to communicate the complexity and the mystery of human relationships. With both impeccable comic timing and a powerful sense of the tragic, Erdrich continues to illuminate, in highly original style, “the river of our existence.” --Joanne Wilkinson --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: P.S.
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; 1 Reprint edition (May 12, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060515139
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060515133
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (242 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #14,388 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Steve Koss VINE VOICE on July 7, 2008
Format: Hardcover
A violin that seemingly causes the inadvertent death of one brother in the Peace family at the hands of another magically calls out to its next owner, an Ojibwe Indian named Shamengwa, after drifting about a lake in an empty canoe for twenty years, only to return to the modern-day Peace family via theft. A man quietly evolves his stamp collecting to include "disaster stamps," that is, stamps on letters associated with tragedies such as the Titanic. A locust-like invasion of white doves in 1896 accidentally brings together Seraph Milk, known now as Mooshum, with his life's love, Junesse, to form the family line of the young Evelina Harp, part white and part Ojibwe. A violin recording that reaches a "strange sweetness" lulls a crying infant to sleep and perhaps saves her life amidst a horrific family slaughter. Many years later, a violin once again exacts a form of revenge on that infant's family's murderer.

Louise Erdrich brings together the great silent expanses of the northern plains, the uneasy truce between White and Native Americans, and a touch of pantheistic, tribal mysticism to tell the story of three generations' residents in the unlikely town of Pluto, North Dakota. Ostensibly named before the planet Pluto was discovered, this Pluto nevertheless contains elements of both the mythological Greek underworld and the end of the solar system. If the end of the world (North Dakota) can have its own, slowly dying end of the world, Pluto is it.

The 1911 tragedy that left behind the surviving infant involved a brutal family slaying of a farm family - parents, a teenage girl, and her two younger brothers. In a racially-charged act of vigilante justice, three Indian men and a young boy who happened upon the murder scene several days later are hanged by a gang of white men.
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Format: Hardcover
When Seraph Milk, known as Mooshum to his young granddaughter Evelina, haltingly tells her about a brutal 1911 crime in which he was involved, he reveals the underlying horrors which unite and divide all the families she knows. Mooshum was one of four Ojibwe Indians from Pluto, North Dakota, who were captured and strung up for the gruesome murder of the Lochrens, a white family. Only Mooshum, among the Indians captured in the area immediately after the murders, miraculously survived the vigilante hangings, and while, ironically, only an infant daughter of the Lochrens, overlooked by the murderer or murderers, survived the massacre.

The murder and lynching reverberate through the relationships within both the Indian and white communities over almost one hundred years. Erdrich is at her best here, telling overlapping family stories--horrifying, loving, hilarious, mystical, passionate, lyrical, and thoughtful--as she reveals life in the Native American and white communities from multiple points of view, across time. As the characters evolve, Erdrich reveals her major theme--the diminishing hold the distant past has on successive generations as each generation creates and feeds on its own past. The influx of white residents to Pluto, numerous intermarriages, and the influence of Christian priests, among other effects, all reduce the emphasis on shared Native American values.

Filling her novel with vibrant characters who reveal their lives and stories--and often cast new light on old stories--Erdrich creates a kaleidoscope of swirling images and moods, filled with irony. The drama of the murder and hangings shares time and space with hilarious scenes in which Mooshum and his unregenerate friends taunt the local priest.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'll admit that I was disappointed with The Plague of Doves. I've read a little of Erdrich's work in the past, and this novel had certainly drawn some praise. It has its moments. You see many instances in the book of Erdrich's genius, but it doesn't add up, somehow, into a full novel for me. The whole thing just didn't quite live up to expectations.

The novel feels a little more like a collection of stories than like a novel, though the characters are all related to one another in some way. Some of these stories are wonderful. The most living sections of the book are those that possess a folkloric quality and have to do with the older members of the novel's community, Mooshun and Shamengwa. Mooshun, now a grandfather, is sort of a trickster figure at moments (his pranks on the Catholic priest are the funniest and most entertaining parts of the book), and his storytelling is the key thread to tie the novel together. Years ago, he was the only survivor among a party of Obijwe hung for the murder of a white family (they were, of course, innocent). That story, and the mysteries that surround it, is gradually told throughout the novel, with information added by multiple characters, and most of the characters are shaped in some way by the tragedy. Shamengwa, Mooshun's brother, provides a sort of spiritual center to the novel, as he plays music from his violin that gives voice to sorrows that truths that transcend words.

Other stories within the book, however, do not seem to fit with these. Particularly, the middle section tells the story of Billy Peace and his family as he founds a cult and as his family tries to survive his increasing sadism.
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