The Round House
By Louise Erdrich
(Harper, Hardcover, 9780062065247, 336pp.)
Publication Date: October 2012
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National Book Award Winner
One Sunday in the spring of 1988, a woman living on a reservation in North Dakota is attacked. The details of the crime are slow to surface as Geraldine Coutts is traumatized and reluctant to relive or reveal what happened, either to the police or to her husband, Bazil, and thirteen-year-old son, Joe. In one day, Joe's life is irrevocably transformed. He tries to heal his mother, but she will not leave her bed and slips into an abyss of solitude. Increasingly alone, Joe finds himself thrust prematurely into an adult world for which he is ill prepared.
While his father, who is a tribal judge, endeavors to wrest justice from a situation that defies his efforts, Joe becomes frustrated with the official investigation and sets out with his trusted friends, Cappy, Zack, and Angus, to get some answers of his own. Their quest takes them first to the Round House, a sacred space and place of worship for the Ojibwe. And this is only the beginning.
Written with undeniable urgency, and illuminating the harsh realities of contemporary life in a community where Ojibwe and white live uneasily together, The Round House is a brilliant and entertaining novel, a masterpiece of literary fiction. Louise Erdrich embraces tragedy, the comic, a spirit world very much present in the lives of her all-too-human characters, and a tale of injustice that is, unfortunately, an authentic reflection of what happens in our own world today.
Louise Erdrich lives with her family in Minnesota and is the owner of Birchbark Books, an independent bookstore. Ms. Erdrich is a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, and this storywhich will, in the end, span one hundred years in the life of an Ojibwe womanwas inspired when Ms. Erdrich and her mother, Rita Gourneau Erdrich, were researching their own family history. Chickadee begins a new part of the story that started with The Birchbark House, a National Book Award finalist; The Game of Silence, winner of the Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction; and the acclaimed The Porcupine Year.
Ms. Erdrich is also the bestselling author of many critically acclaimed novels for adults, including the Pulitzer Prize finalist The Plague of Doves and National Book Award finalist The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse. She is also the author of the picture book Grandmother's Pigeon, illustrated by Jim LaMarche.
Reading literary fiction improves people's ability to recognize other people's mental states, while popular fiction and nonfiction do not, a study says. That may be because literary fiction tends to focus on the psychology and inner lives of the characters. More at NPR.org
A devastating crime on a Native American reservation opens up questions about law, justice, and family in Louise Erdrich's latest novel, The Round House. It's the winner of this year's National Book Award for fiction. Erdrich discusses the book with guest host Celeste Headlee. Advisory: This conversation may not be comfortable for all listeners. More at NPR.org
The National Book Awards, announced Wednesday night, honored both longtime writers and new authors, from Louise Erdrich for her novel The Round House, to Katherine Boo for her debut nonfiction work, Behind the Beautiful Forevers. More at NPR.org
- The Round House opens with the sentence: "Small trees had attacked my parents' house at the foundation." How do these words relate to the complete story that unfolds?
“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 sweeping, suspenseful outing from this prizewinning, generation-spanning chronicler of her Native American people, the Ojibwe of the northern plains...a sumptuous tale.”
“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
“Moving, complex, and surprisingly uplifting…likely to be dubbed the Native American TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD”
-Parade, Fall's Best Books
“Riveting…One of Erdrich’s most suspenseful novels.... It vividly portrays both the deep tragedy and crazy comedy of life.”
-BookPage, Cover/Feature Review
“A gripping mystery with a moral twist: Revenge might be the harshest punishment, but only for the victims. A-”
“THE ROUND HOUSE is filled with stunning language that recalls shades of Faulkner, Garcia Marquez and Toni Morrison. Deeply moving, this novel ranks among Erdrich’s best work, and it is impossible to forget.”
“Erdrich never shields the reader or Joe from the truth…She writes simply, without flourish.”
“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
“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
“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.”
-Maria Russo, New York Times Book 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
“THE ROUND HOUSE is a stunning piece of architecture. It is carefully, lovingly, disarmingly constructed. Even the digressions demand strict attention.”
-Susan Salter Reynolds, 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
“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.”
“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…”
“Louise Erdrich’s prose is spare, precise, smooth as polished stone. Her books are rich with literary muscle.” -Austin American-Statesman
“The story draws the reader unstoppably page by page.”
“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.”
“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 worth reading.”
-Michiko Kakutani, New York Times
“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
“Haunting…a bittersweet coming-of-age tale…tender but unsentimental and buoyed by subtle wit”
“Poignant and surprisingly funny, it’s the acclaimed writer’s best book yet.”
-O, the Oprah Magazine, "Our Favorite Reads of 2012"