By Louise Erdrich
(Harper, Hardcover, 9780061536090, 272pp.)
Publication Date: February 2010
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"Here is the most telling fact: you wish to possess me.
Here is another fact: I loved you and let you think you could."
When Irene America discovers that her husband, Gil, has been reading her diary, she begins a secret Blue Notebook, stashed securely in a safe-deposit box. There she records the truth about her life and her marriage, while turning her Red Diaryhidden where Gil will find itinto a manipulative farce. Alternating between these two records, complemented by unflinching third-person narration, Shadow Tag is an eerily gripping read.
When the novel opens, Irene is resuming work on her doctoral thesis about George Catlin, the nineteenth-century painter whose Native American subjects often regarded his portraits with suspicious wonder. Gil, who gained notoriety as an artist through his emotionally revealing portraits of his wifework that is adoring, sensual, and humiliating, even shockingrealizes that his fear of losing Irene may force him to create the defining work of his career.
Meanwhile, Irene and Gil fight to keep up appearances for their three children: fourteen-year-old genius Florian, who escapes his family's unraveling with joints and a stolen bottle of wine; Riel, their only daughter, an eleven-year-old feverishly planning to preserve her family, no matter what disaster strikes; and sweet kindergartener Stoney, who was born, his parents come to realize, at the beginning of the end.
As her home increasingly becomes a place of violence and secrets, and she drifts into alcoholism, Irene moves to end her marriage. But her attachment to Gil is filled with shadowy need and delicious ironies. In brilliantly controlled prose, Shadow Tag fearlessly explores the complex nature of love, the fluid boundaries of identity, and one family's struggle for survival and redemption.
Louise Erdrich is the author of thirteen novels, several volumes of poetry, short stories, children's books, and a memoir of early motherhood. Her novel Love Medicine won the National Book Critics Circle Award, and The Plague of Doves was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. She lives in Minnesota and is the owner of Birchbark Books, an independent bookstore.
Louise Erdrich's new novel, Shadow Tag, is the story of a woman who writes two diaries — one that she knows her husband is reading, and one that she keeps secret. As she manipulates her husband, their marriage falls apart. More at NPR.org
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- What is your opinion of Irene and Gil? Did you like one more than the other? Do they bear equal responsibility for the state of their relationship, or do you see them more as victim and perpetrator? If so, which is which?
“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
“Gripping…a hushed and haunting tale that chillingly and convincingly reflects the upper-middle-class American experience, not only the Native American one.”
“ A fierce novel…raw…alive…vividly present…it marks a breakthrough for the author.”
“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
“Erdrich offers a portrait that’s convincing…Shadow Tag is wonderfully, painfully readable and revealing.”
-Minneapolis Star Tribune
“A page-turner…a most compelling novel”
-Dallas Morning News
“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.”
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
“Read this if: You’re looking for a well-written, well-told tale that is thought- and discussion- provoking.”
“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)
“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.”
“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.”
“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
“SHADOW TAG is compelling…a searing, personal examination of one family that’s falling apart.”
“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