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.
Reading the summary of this book immediately reminded me of Leslie Marmon Silko, and as a fan of her work, I had a gut feeling I would like this book as well. I was right.
The Round House is a book that talks about difficult things -- uncomfortable things, things you don't want to think about -- but somehow, it's a book you don't want to put down. That's a skill, for sure. I've read plenty of books where bad things are happening, and I just want to close the book and give up. When I was reading The Round House, however, I was always eager to keep reading, wanting to know what would happen next.
I loved the characters, especially our protagonist, who is a young teen when we meet him, and this is also another feather in Erdich's cap, as, it sounds terrible to say, but ... I'm not generally a fan of teen and tween male characters in books. I've not found many who resonate with me and don't annoy me. Joe, on the other hand, is such a genuine and kind boy that I can't help but love him.
At the heart, this story is about two groups who live together, but uneasily, and this is a problem that has existed for quite some time and has clearly not been resolved. Many readers will not have experience with this phenomenon, either personally or through research, and for them, this book will be enlightening. For those who know more about it, I believe this will likely ring true to their own experiences.
Like other great Native American writers, Louise Erdich brings a world to life for her readers, and asks those who don't already know about it to learn about it and those who are a part of it to say "Yes! This! This is how it is!" Overall, it was an enjoyable book, a great read, and something I believe will be enjoyed by a wide audience.
I was provided a free copy of this book by TLC Book Tours, but was not compensated in any way. These opinions are my own.