Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Book Review: The Round House by Louise Erdrich

I am in two book clubs which isn't exactly a choice (one is enough for me) but I did have some serendipity this month when both of them chose the same book! And while I wasn't bowled over by The Round House, it certainly does have a ton of discussable topics and themes. I did like it well enough, although I'm finding that with analysis, my liking of the book is dropping.

Joe is a 13-year-old boy helping his father, a tribal judge, around their house on the reservation when they realize Joe's mother should have been home hours ago from running to work to get a file. They go looking for her but she ends up back at home, bloody and in shock. She was attacked and raped. And because she doesn't know precisely where this took place, as the area has tribal, federal, and state land all meeting together, it's impossible to determine jurisdiction. So the rapist is going to go free.

Joe (and his friends) decide to investigate and try to find out what happened, who did it, and what can be done about it. They do figure out some things, and then they cross a point of no return.

Where is the line between vengeance and justice? Are there different kinds of evil? Does all evil have to be paid for? These are just a few of the juicy topics that can be explored. But we got bogged down in my book clubs with the way that Ms. Erdrich shoehorned in a lot of the Native American culture, such as Joe's grandfather telling him a very pertinent story... in his sleep, coherently, over two consecutive nights, picking up exactly where he left off! Also there was a pow-wow with elaborate dress and dancing that all sounded cool, but turned out to be just a distraction that allowed Joe to steal a gun, and once he did so, the pow-wow was no longer important. We also had issues with the voice of Joe changing. The premise sets up that Joe now, around age 40 and a judge himself, is telling us about what happened back in 1987 when he was 13, but the 13-year-old voice sometimes sounded way too mature, and there was definite slippage between the two. Also Joe's aunt is a big part of the Sonja until she just vanishes about 1/4 from the end. It is mentioned at the very end that she's coming back, but her role felt uneven to me. And of course I am always bothered when an author doesn't use quotation marks. I really wish this stupid convention would stop. Not using quotation marks doesn't automatically make your book literary! Just hard to read!

All this said, I did enjoy it. It starts off slow but then the mystery kicks in and while the revelations are all so set up that they seem obvious, it still kept me turning the pages. But in retrospect, I'm liking it less.

I bought this at my local independent bookstore, Park Road Books.

No comments: