Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Round House - A National Book Award winner (I think that's a big deal)

The Round House, a National Book Award winner, is written by Louise Erdrich.  I got to read this because HarperCollins gave all of its bloggers the option of being sent a copy, even though it was already published.  It was really nice to receive an actual book, as opposed to an ARC (advanced reader's copy).  Did I like it?  I did.  I give it a 3.0.  Not bad considering it's good enough to win an award.  Normally I stay away from those!

So, Louise Erdrich is 25% Native-American (Ojibwe).  Her grandfather was a tribal leader.  And she writes novels (and poems and non-fiction essays and short stories) about Native-American people.  This novel (her 14th) takes place in 1988 on a reservation in North Dakota.  The story centers on a family of 3 - Bazil, who is a tribal judge, his wife, Geraldine, who works at the tribal enrollment office, and Joe, their 13-year old son.  Everything revolves around Geraldine being attacked and all of the fallout from that incident.

This is a very good book.  It reminds me of the book I recently read by Barbara Kingsolver (my 1st), Flight Behavior (which I reviewed on 10/25/12) in terms of being well-written.  But I like Erdrich better.  The Round House was more readable for me.  I think that a lot of authors who write "literature" forget that most of us readers want something that we don't have to work at.  This book does that.

I know you're tired of hearing me make this comment.  But I always come back to whether or not the book grabs me.  Am I emotionally involved?  In The Round House, I was worried on page 5 when Geraldine went missing, felt better on page 6 because she turned up, and then felt lousy again on page 7 when she wasn't okay.  Maybe it's just me, but I need the connection in order to really enjoy a book.  I definitely have it here.

All of the supporting characters are interesting:  Joe's 3 good buddies, a local priest, and a very odd spinster who helps Joe find his mother's attacker.  And then there's Sonja, an exotic dancer who marries one of Joe's uncles and helps him run a gas station/ convenience store.  Sonja puts on a birthday strip tease for Joe's old grandfather that is very powerful - and not just because I'm an able-bodied(?) typical male.

I really like that Erdrich spends time talking about Native-American traditions.  In fact, the Round House is specifically a place of worship on the reservation.  I really like how she blends age-old customs in a modern Native-American setting.  I also like how she shows her readers the injustices that the Native-Americans have faced and still face (at least as of 1988).  And she does this through a Native-American attorney.  For an American-born caucasian, it's very enlightening.

The only thing I really don't like is her lack of quotation marks.  I sometimes find it difficult to figure out who said what and whether the last sentence was an internal musing or an actual out-loud statement.  Since I have to obsessively understand every word I'm reading in every book, I can get a little bogged down with that style of writing.

All in all, I like it and am recommending it.

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