Mom had planted the pansy seedlings she'd grown in paper milk cartons. She'd put them out early. The only flower that could stand a frost. Louise Erdrich, The Round HouseMy local Waterstones told me they 'wouldn't be stocking' the new Louise Erdrich novel and would I like to order it? Well no I wouldn't actually. I took a trip to Blackwells in Oxford where I could actually pick up a copy from the shelves. It was well worth the visit. I think this is Erdrich's finest novel since Love Medicine was published in 1984. If you are familiar with earlier works you will recognise the landscape, some of the named characters - Nanapush, Lamartines, Morrisseys - and the 1980s setting, but it works perfectly as a standalone novel.
It begins with 13-year old Joe and his father pulling up tree seedlings that have worked their way into the foundations of their house on a North Dakota reservation. Wondering why Joe's mother is late home from work they decide she must have gone to the grocery store at Hoopdance and decide to drive out to meet her. Suddenly Joe's mother drives past them, very fast, in the opposite lane. They follow her home and when she doesn't get out of the car but remains sitting in the driver's seat staring ahead they realise that something is very wrong.
Joe's mother has been the victim of a brutal attack. Joe resolves to find out who did it, and although the novel has elements of a whodunnit or a thriller it is really, I think, a coming-of-age story. Despite its harrowing theme and the examination of the legal issues surrounding attacks on Native American women, the novel is at times laugh-out-loud funny. I loved Joe's crush on his Aunt Sonja the Swedish ex- stripper with a heart of gold and the chase between furious Father Travis and Joe's friend, Cappy. The novel's denouement, revenge and revelation had me avidly turning the pages and I didn't want the book to end.
Litlove has an excellent review (as always) at Tales from the Reading Room.