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Shadow Tag: A Novel (P.S.) Paperback – December 13, 2016
This month's Book With Buzz: "Little Fires Everywhere" by Celeste Ng
From the bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You, a riveting novel that traces the intertwined fates of the picture - perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives. See more
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From Publishers Weekly
Erdrich's bleak latest (after The Plague of Doves) chronicles the collapse of a family. Irene America is a beautiful, introspective woman of Native American ancestry, struggling to finish her dissertation while raising three children. She is married to Gil, a painter whose reputation is built on a series of now iconic portraits of Irene, but who can't break through to the big time, pigeonholed as a Native American painter. Irene's fallen out of love with Gil and discovers that he's been reading her diary, so she begins a new, hidden, diary and uses her original diary as a tool to manipulate Gil. Erdrich deftly alternates between excerpts from these two diaries and third-person narration as she plots the emotional war between Irene and Gil, and Gil's dark side becomes increasingly apparent as Irene, fighting her own alcoholism, struggles to escape. Erdrich ties her various themes together with an intriguing metaphor—riffing on Native American beliefs about portraits as shadows and shadows as souls—while her steady pacing and remarkable insight into the inner lives of children combine to make this a satisfying and compelling novel. (Feb.)
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.
“Gripping…a hushed and haunting tale.” (USA Today)
“A portrait of an ‘iconic’ marriage on its way to dissolution…Erdrich’s unbridled urgency yields startlingly original phrasing as well as flashes of blinding lucidity.” (New York Times Book Review)
“ A fierce novel…raw…alive…vividly present…it marks a breakthrough for the author.” (Columbus Dispatch)
“Read this if: You’re looking for a well-written, well-told tale that is thought- and discussion- provoking.” (Baltimore Sun)
“A page-turner…a most compelling novel” (Dallas Morning News)
“SHADOW TAG is hard to put down...It builds to a spectacular ending with a twist I didn’t see coming...Erdrich has taken a tragedy and turned it into art.” (Philadelphia Inquirer)
“A domestic drama that builds an almost thriller-like momentum…A novel as dark and tragic as it is difficult to put down” (San Diego Union-Tribune)
Clear, urgent, deep as a swift river…accomplishes the literary miracle of making a reader ravenous to finish it, while stinging with regret at how soon it must end.” (San Francisco Chronicle)
“SHADOW TAG is compelling…a searing, personal examination of one family that’s falling apart.” (Miami Herald)
“An exquisite, character-driven tale…its piercing insights into sex, family, and power are breathtaking…A masterfully concentrated and gripping novel of image and conquest, autonomy and love, inheritance and loss.” (Donna Seaman, Booklist)
“Muscular and fearless…It is [Erdrich’s] superb telling of this story that makes it real, her stellar writing that brings powerful truth to invented worlds.” (BookPage)
“Erdrich offers a portrait that’s convincing…Shadow Tag is wonderfully, painfully readable and revealing.” (Minneapolis Star Tribune)
“A fast-paced novel of exceptional artistic, intellectual, and psychological merit…Nowhere have love’s complications been better illustrated than in the raw honesty of Shadow Tag.” (Boston Sunday Globe)
“A masterpiece…a captivating work of fiction…exquisite…tightly focused…arresting…This profoundly tragic novel captures that lament in some of Erdrich’s most beautiful and urgent writing.” (Ron Charles, Washington Post)
“A brilliant cautionary tale…Reading it is like watching a wildfire whose flames are so mesmerizingly beautiful that it’s almost easy to ignore the deadly mess left behind.” (Library Journal)
“Into this deeply personal novel about marriage, family and individual identity, Erdrich weaves broader questions about cause and effect in history...A small masterpiece of compelling, painfully moving fiction.” (Kirkus Reviews (starred review))
Top customer reviews
And when you explore Louise Erdrich's apparently semi-autobiographical novel "Shadow Tag," maybe you'll want to avert your gaze, but you probably won't be able to. Her prose is faultless; the story is gripping. The author sets the tale in familiar territory--Minnesota--and populates it as usual with Native Americans (she herself is Ojibwe). But this time out her antagonists, Irene and Gil, could just as easily have been outer-borough New York Ethnics, or Connecticut WASPs.
Anyway, the marriage of these two deeply damaged and rather despicable people spirals apart before your eyes, while their three children and two dogs try to cope.
Shifting back and forth between first-person narrative for the sections in the false red diary and true blue notebook, and third-person narrative for the bulk of the tale (the writer of which isn't revealed until the end--although maybe you'll have figured out who that is by then), Ms. Erdrich provides painful thrills. There's not a word out of place.
The true blue notebook seldom appears in the narrative, and its only purpose seems to be to set up the finale. And maybe there was a better way to achieve this. But the suggestion here is to simply deal with what is before you. And that devastates.'
Harper Perennial 272 pgs
This book is excruciating. Also spellbinding. You will be appalled by the mind games being played but you will also come to understand them. At first you won't believe that you would ever play these games. But then you will begin to reflect and wonder if you haven't played some of these games yourself. I enjoyed this book greatly. It is a pleasure to read. Just be forewarned.
Irene and Gil are married and have 3 children. Gil is a successful artist and Irene is supposed to be working on her thesis. Irene has been keeping a journal since their first child was born. There are many of these red bound journals. She has recently discovered that Gil is reading her journal so she has bought another journal, a blue one, and it is the real journal. She has gone so far as to rent a safe deposit box for this blue journal. So far so good but Irene keeps writing in the red journal. She is writing for Gil.
Gil is an almost completely unsympathetic character. He never exhibits any kindness that is not corrupted by self. He so desperately needs to keep this family of his together that he is moved to ever more inspired heights of cruelty. The majority of Gil's work are portraits of Irene in many poses, all graphic images of different stages of body and life. His portraits are an attempt to maintain control over Irene. Almost as if the old Native American belief that a picture takes some of your soul is true. Gil takes pieces of Irene's soul.
Irene seems a much more sympathetic character. But then you realize that you may have made a mistake. There are deep, very dark currents at work in this marriage. Irene begins to resent the portraits Gil has painted of her over the years. She begins to feel those pieces of her soul as they go missing. In big ragged chunks. So since Irene has discovered Gil's disrespect and invasion of her privacy she begins writing fiction for Gil to read.
This is how the plot spins out of control for everyone. As Gil and Irene each struggle for control of the other they take no prisoners. Shadow Tag is sort of a thriller and the tension builds and builds. The twist at the end shocks. And then again it doesn't. You saw this coming even if you didn't. And it tells you all you needed to know about Gil and Irene.
Please visit Louise Erdrich's book store: [...]
*Note that many people believe this book has autobiographical elements. You can take a look at this short bio of Ms. Erdrich's former husband Michael Dorris and make up your own mind:[...]
I also have a problem with books that bully me and hector me or try to sell me on the importance of books, and the wonder of books, and the excitement of books, and the great smell of books, without being a particularly good book. Eat your spinach; brush your teeth; love books. Got it. Rather, just put a bunch of neat books out and I'll figure out the importance, wonder and excitement for myself.
I don't mean to sound so nasty, (the illustrations are charming, the intentions are certainly good), but, despite my honest effort, I have not made it all the way to the end of this book with any of my grandchildren. Each one has wiggled out of my lap about half way through, and then returned with a book to be read that he or she actually likes. And the fact that this book doesn't seem to fully engage kids is, after all, the most important point.
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