Wednesday, September 18, 2013

THE ROUND HOUSE by Louise Erdrich

Thirteen-year-old Joe lives on a North Dakota reservation, and his world is rocked when his mother, Geraldine, is beaten and raped.  She retreats into depression and silence, exasperating Joe and his father, a tribal judge, since they need for her to identify her assailant.  The attack took place near the ceremonial Round House, but Geraldine does not know the exact location, leading to a jurisdictional quagmire that makes prosecution futile.  Once the attacker's identity is known, Joe starts to take matters into his own hands, to free his family from the fear of further violence.  I enjoyed the first half of this book immensely.  It was suspenseful, and I was able to maintain hope that this family could return to something close to normalcy.  However, the second half I found to be very dark, with an unsettling revelation and yet another tragedy, leaving Joe to sort out his regrets and sorrows.  The reader knows from the get-go that Joe goes on to study law himself, but I would have liked the book not to end as it did.  I don't know if his family is irreparably broken, but one thing I do know:  Joe had to grow up before his time.  There's even a scene near the end where he becomes infuriated at his parents for their innocence in the midst of his own consternation, to the point that he sees them as "the oblivious children" and himself as the perturbed adult.  (I have to see this role reversal as temporary or perhaps even wildly skewed, given the event that follows.)  My biggest beef with this book is that I never really grasped the motive for the attack in the first place.  I know this book is a vehicle for the author to protest the fact that few white rapists of Native American women ever go to trial, but I thought she could have done a better job of setting up the premise for Geraldine having been targeted.

1 comment:

Elizabeth said...

Nice review. sounds good.