- Paperback: 368 pages
- Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (September 24, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0062065254
- ISBN-13: 978-0062065254
- Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars See all reviews (2,991 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #7,051 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Round House: A Novel Paperback – September 24, 2013
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Likely to be dubbed the Native American To Kill a Mockingbird, Louise Erdrich’s moving, complex, and surprisingly uplifting new novel tells of a boy’s coming of age in the wake of a brutal, racist attack on his mother. Drawn from real-life statistics about racially inspired attacks on our country’s reservations, this tale is forceful but never preachy, thanks in large part to Erdrich’s understated but glorious prose and her apparent belief in the redemptive power of storytelling. --Sara Nelson --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
“Wise and suspenseful…Erdrich’s voice as well as her powers of insight and imagination fully infuse this novel…She writes so perceptively and brilliantly about the adolescent passion for justice that one is transported northward to her home territory.” (Elizabeth Taylor, Chicago Tribune)
“Erdrich has given us a multitude of narrative voices and stories. Never before has she given us a novel with a single narrative voice so smart, rich and full of surprises as she has in The Round House…and, I would argue, her best so far.” (NPR/All Thing's Considered)
“THE ROUND HOUSE is filled with stunning language that recalls shades of Faulkner, García Márquez and Toni Morrison. Deeply moving, this novel ranks among Erdrich’s best work, and it is impossible to forget.” (USA Today)
“Emotionally compelling…Joe is an incredibly endearing narrator, full of urgency and radiant candor…the story he tells transforms a sad, isolated crime into a revelation about how maturity alters our relationship with our parents, delivering us into new kinds of love and pain.” (Ron Charles, Washington Post)
“The novel showcases her [Erdrich’s] extraordinary ability to delineate the ties of love, resentment, need, duty and sympathy that bind families together…[a] powerful novel.” (Michiko Kakutani, New York Times)
“A gripping mystery with a moral twist: Revenge might be the harshest punishment, but only for the victims. A-” (Entertainment Weekly)
“Moving, complex, and surprisingly uplifting…likely to be dubbed the Native American TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD” (Parade, Fall's Best Books)
“Erdrich never shields the reader or Joe from the truth…She writes simply, without flourish.” (Philadelphia Inquirer)
“An artfully balanced mystery, thriller and coming-of-age story…this novel will have you reading at warp speed to see what happens next.” (Minneapolis Star Tribune)
“Erdrich’s bittersweet contemplation of love and friendship, morality and generativity…result in a tender, tough coming-of-age tale.” (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
“A powerful human story…By boring deeply into one person’s darkest episode, Erdrich hits the bedrock truth about a whole community.” (New York Times Book Review)
“Haunting…a bittersweet coming-of-age tale…tender but unsentimental and buoyed by subtle wit” (People)
“THE ROUND HOUSE is a stunning piece of architecture. It is carefully, lovingly, disarmingly constructed. Even the digressions demand strict attention.” (Newsday)
“One of the most pleasurable aspects of Erdrich’s writing…is that while her narratives are loose and sprawling, the language is always tight and poetically compressed…In the end there’s nothing, not the arresting plot or the shocking ending of THE ROUND HOUSE, that resonates as much as the characters.” (San Francisco Chronicle)
“Joe may be one of Erdrich’s best-drawn characters; he’s conflicted, feisty one moment, scared and disappointed the next. THE ROUND HOUSE will inevitably draw comparisons to Harper Lee’s TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD…” (Miami Herald)
“A sweeping, suspenseful outing from this prizewinning, generation-spanning chronicler of her Native American people, the Ojibwe of the northern plains...a sumptuous tale.” (Elle)
“Erdrich threads a gripping mystery and multilayered portrait of a community through a deeply affecting coming-of-age novel.” (Karen Holt, O, the Oprah Magazine)
“A stunning and devastating tale of hate crimes and vengeance…Erdrich covers a vast spectrum of history, cruel loss, and bracing realizations. A preeminent tale in an essential American saga.” (Donna Seaman, Booklist, Starred Review of THE ROUND HOUSE)
“The story pulses with urgency as she [Erdrich] probes the moral and legal ramifications of a terrible act of violence.” (Publishers Weekly, Starred Review of THE ROUND HOUSE)
“Erdrich skillfully makes Joe’s coming-of-age both universal and specific…the story is also ripe with detail about reservation life, and with her rich cast of characters, Erdrich provides flavor, humor and depth. Joe’s relationship with his father, Bazil, a judge, has echoes of TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD.” (Library Journal, Starred Review of THE ROUND HOUSE)
“Riveting…One of Erdrich’s most suspenseful novels.... It vividly portrays both the deep tragedy and crazy comedy of life.” (BookPage, Cover/Feature Review)
“Each new Erdrich novel adds new layers of pathos and comedy, earthiness and spiritual questing, to her priceless multigenerational drama. THE ROUND HOUSE is one of her best -- concentrated, suspenseful, and morally profound.” (Jane Ciabattari, Boston Globe)
“Louise Erdrich’s prose is spare, precise, smooth as polished stone. Her books are rich with literary muscle.” -Austin American-Statesman (Austin American-Statesman)
“The story draws the reader unstoppably page by page.” (Seattle Times)
“While Erdrich is known as a brilliant chronicler of the American Indian experience, her insights into our family, community, and spiritual lives transcend any category.” (Reader's Digest)
“Poignant and surprisingly funny, it’s the acclaimed writer’s best book yet.” (O, the Oprah Magazine, "Our Favorite Reads of 2012")
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Top Customer Reviews
Our narrator - an Ojibwe lawyer named Joe Coutts - recalls his 13th summer from the perspective of time. Joe's position as the only child of tribal judge Bazil Coutts and tribal clerk Geraldine Coutts kept him feeling loved and secure until his mother is brutally and sadistically raped as she attempts to retrieve a potentially damning file. Although the rapist is rather quickly identified, the location of the rape--in the vicinity of a sacred round house - lies within that "no-man's land" where tribal courts are in charge and the neighboring Caucasians cannot be prosecuted, no matter how heinous the crime. Thrust into an adult world, Joe and his best friends Cappy, Zack and Angus are propelled to seek their own answers.
This novel shines for many reasons, particularly because of the urgency and power of the descriptions. The aftermath of the rape is described in unflinching and dynamic prose - no manipulation, and no turning away. One of the ancillary yet important characters - the damaged and conflicted Father Travis, a war veteran - is so beautifully and powerfully fleshed out that it is impossible to not be riveted to the page. Each character, in fact, is realistically drawn, complete with the ambiguities that reside in each of us.
This is a finely nuanced novel that, like a Rubik's cube, examines violence and our responsibilities in a number of ways. One of them is through the prism of religion: the Roman Catholic belief that every evil ultimately can be transfigured to good as opposed to tribal justice traditions. Ms. Erdrich ties in a tale about a "wiindigoo" or evil spirit, which makes a person "become an animal, and see fellow humans as meat." In instances like this, the destruction of the wiindigoo is the only possible answer.
Throughout, Ms. Erdrich uses symmetry as she contrasts one belief to the other. the contrast of ideal justice versus best-we-can-do justice. Past beliefs versus contemporary realities. The dark and the light that reside in each of us. And perhaps most glaringly, the "bad twin" and his spiritually generous twin, named - appropriately - Linden and Linda, two sides of a coin.(Interestingly, within these personas, evil is portrayed as seductive and attractive and good is physically ugly and needy. All is not what it appears on the surface, the author appears to say).
I have not read much of Louise Erdrich before, so I cannot contrast this book with those that came before it. I will say this: it is unlikely to recede from my mind anytime soon.
In a powerful opening scene, filled with symbols and portents, thirteen-year-old Antone Basil Coutts (Joe), only child and namesake of Judge Coutts and his wife Geraldine, is helping his father to pull tiny seedlings from cracks in the foundation of their house, awaiting Geraldine's return from her office. When she finally arrives at home, she is almost unrecognizable, so badly beaten she can hardly see, reeking of gasoline and so traumatized by rape and other crimes that she has become mute. Young Joe knows that it will be up to him and his father to identify who has done this. They begin to study his father's old cases searching clues.
Joe is still a child, however, and though his empathetic father wants to protect him as much as possible, Joe becomes obsessed with getting his mother "back," determined to find and punish the rapist on his own. These tensions add drama and meaning to the novel, and Joe's contacts with others, both in his family and outside it, expand the scope. The sweat lodge ceremony is described, the extortion of elderly Indians by a white-owned supermarket on Indian land is detailed, the raucous and sexy (and hilarious) talk of elderly family members is recorded, the "flirting" of a stripper living with Joe's uncle is tension-filled and emotional, the appearance of ghosts to Joe, and the efforts of a local priest, a former soldier injured in Lebanon in 1983, are all described to powerful effect, keeping the interest and involvement of the reader at high pitch.
As in her other novels, Erdrich provides a sense of continuity by including characters from other books in this one - including the priestly Nanapush (from Tracks), who was an inspiration to Mooshum, thought now to be one hundred six years old in this novel. Mooshum, whose story is told here, was also a main character in The Plague of Doves, a book which also includes Judge Antone Basil Coutts, father of this novel's main character Joe, and Corwin Peace, father of Joe's friend Zach. By repeating these characters through successive generations, Erdrich provides a genealogy and sense of history which add to the sense of time and place, and highlight the changes, not all of them good, taking place within the community. The novel, one of Erdrich's best, will keep serious readers totally engaged with its sensitive descriptions and insights, even as those interested in just a "good story" will celebrate the action, excitement, and the issues it raises.