Book Review: The Round House

The Round House
By: Louise Erdrich
Published By: HarperCollins
Publication Date: October 2, 2012
Page Count: 323
Source: Personal Copy
Audience/Genre: Adult Fiction
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Part mystery, part historical fiction, but mostly gorgeous and breathtaking prose -- The Round House by Louise Erdrich is one of my favorite reads in recent memory. In the spring of 1988, a woman is brutally attacked on a reservation in North Dakota. Details, and justice, are slow to come by due to the complicated legal rules surrounding tribal land, federal land, and local/state jurisdiction, so her thirteen-year-old son, Joe, begins to investigate.

Joe's mother is reluctant to reveal any details of her attack or about her attacker, deterred by shame, fear, and the knowledge that nothing even resembling legal justice will likely come to her attacker, an attacker who understands the complexities of the convoluted, three-way legal system of a reservation in America. Joe's father is a tribal judge, and attempts to maintain his faith in the system, but Joe isn't as honorably bound. Throughout his investigation, Joe begins to age dramatically beyond his thirteen years, and discovers things about himself, his family, and his community that will change his life forever. And justice, of some kind, will be found for his mother.

Character-wise, Joe and his friends (I loved his best friend Cappy!) are the stars of this novel. Erdrich writes teenage boys as if she was one, and the authenticity with which she portrays the struggles Joe has watching his mother going through the painful and distressing ordeal after her attack resonated. Joes's tribal judge father, his mother, and the whole host of secondary characters were equally rich and well-developed.

Written in gorgeous, descriptive, and breathtaking prose, I cannot recommend this novel enough. It appeals to literature lovers, mystery lovers, historical fiction lovers, and YA lovers alike. Read it!

Summary via Goodreads

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.