Monday, December 24, 2012
Books I've Read: The Round House
by Louise Erdrich
This novel was chosen for my book club, and I was excited to read it. But, in the end, it is a bit of a mess, and I can't say that I enjoyed it so much as I respected it. I'm surprised that it won the National Book Award. The politics and marketing powers driving that particular award must be quite interesting.
First, I know it is Louise Erdrich's style to incorporate Native American mysticism and mythology, but I just was not at all interested in those asides; I thought they were unnecessarily distracting from the plot, which already has a lot of side-plots and minor characters.
But, the plot, part coming-of-age story and part "whodunit," is good. A story presumably about Joe, a 13-year-old Ojibwe boy who tries to solve the crime and then come to terms with his mother's rape. Although, once the attacker's identity is revealed (I thought it became obvious pretty early on), I realized that this book was not a mystery at all. It is a story about the terrible situation Native American women were (the story takes place in 1988), and are still, facing - a great many are raped, and due to jurisdictional issues associated with reservation land, prosecutions are difficult. It is also about the consequences of our choices, and culture, and community, and how those influences inform those choices. One aspect I particularly liked was the layering of these influences on young Joe - including his relationships with his friends and family, his father's (a judge) relationship with the law, Native American lore, Catholic religion, and even Star Trek.
I liked most of the characters, but the whole thing was too flawed for me to love. Rambling, jumpy, and I just never got into a rhythm with it. I also disliked the ending, however inevitable it was that something like what happened had to happen.