The Round House by Louise Erdrich

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Title: The Round House
Author: Louise Erdrich
Pages: 317
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Harper (Harper Collins)
Pub. Date: October 2, 2012

I have been wanting to read a novel of Louise Erdrich's for a while, so after her latest, The Round House, won the National Book Award, I decided I'd have to start with this one. Plus there were comparisons to To Kill a Mockingbird and I figured this is a must read.

Unfortunately, while I recognize the merits of this book, as well as the aforementioned comparisons, overall I don't think it was for me. It tells the story of 13-year-old Joe who lives on a reservation in North Dakota with his mother and tribal judge father. Shortly into the book, Joe's mother is physically attacked and raped. She suffers a type of post-traumatic stress reaction in which she retreats into herself. Justice is hard to come by because of the ambiguities or contradictions in the laws governing jurisdiction of the reservation and free land as well as of the people victim to or perpetrator to the crime. While The Round House focuses on this situation and Joe's own desire for seeking justice, it also is a coming of age story about him and his friends.

I typically enjoy coming of age stories, and it might be that I had expected more plot focus on the issue with his mother that left me disappointed with this one. I can't help but feel, though, that the story meandered a little to where I became confused about the focus. I also would have liked more focus on the social justice issue regarding difficulty of prosecuting these types of crimes on reservations. The author provided a little information about it in the afterword, and I would have liked to learn more about this from the reading. I feel like at this point I just know of it being an issue rather than feeling totally informed.

And I very much disliked the ending.

My review seems really negative, but it wasn't a bad or unenjoyable book by any means. I just didn't connect to it for whatever reason. I'm pretty much the only one who seems to have this opinion, though, and it did win the National Book Award, so take that for what it's worth!

(And upon reading this I was still convinced to pick up those other books of the author's that I had been considering!)


Meg @ A Bookish Affair said...

I had been wanting to read one of Erdrich's books for awhile but I don't think this one would be for me either!

nomadreader said...

I'm reading this one soon and am quite curious about it. Interestingly, the only other Erdrich I read (Shadow Tag) was good, but I didn't really like it until the ending. I'm curious how I'll fare with this ending!

Ti said...

I liked it more than you did, but I really identified with Joe. I didn't like the ending for a lot of reasons, but at the same time, it seemed fitting.

She lost me with the Native American stories. I just posted my review today if you want to take a look.

Zibilee said...

I have been debating whether or not this book is for me, and I have decided, after reading your review, that it's not for me. There are so many things that are hallmarks of Erdrich's books; like the characters being or having relations that are Native Americans, and most especially the darkness and disturbing aspects of the stories. Thanks for your candor.

Jenners said...

I know what you mean about not hating a book but it kind of seems like it when you write your review. I have been meaning to try this author -- I've heard about her for years but never made the effort to read any of her books.

Alyce said...

Every time I've seen descriptions of this book I'm not drawn to it. I have been curious about it because of the award win, but still don't think it's one that I want to read.

Jennifer @ Mrs Q Book Addict said...

This one is new to me. I'm not familiar with the author.

Meg @ write meg! said...

I just read about this one this morning -- the Washington Post selected it as one of their best books of the year! The plot doesn't quite sound up my alley, though . . . hmmm.

Heather @ Book Addiction said...

I totally get it! I read another of Erdich's a while back - Shadow Tag - and really didn't enjoy it. It was so dark and depressing I just couldn't "like" the book.

Marie said...

this was a tough book. i wasn't crazy about the ending either and I was surprised by the focus on the who dun it as opposed to the coming of age.

Rowena Hailey said...

This sounds so good! Thanks for letting us know about this new book by Louise Erdrich. I will be sure to get it.

Rowena Hailey (Indianapolis Local SEO)

Cleo Rogers said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cleo Rogers said...

Sounds like my kind of book. I too have seen it touted other places, and appreciated your take on it. Thanks.

Cleo Rogers (

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