I got a copy of "The Round House" by Louise Erdrich for Christmas, but haven't had the heart to pick it up until now. Although I've long been a fan of Erdrich's writing, I knew the content matter would not make for light reading. The story revolves around the sexual assault of the narrator's mother, and his attempts to seek vengeance. "The attack," as it comes to be known, happens in 1988 when Joe is 13. He and his family live on the on the Ojibwe reservation in North Dakota. The son of a tribal judge, Joe is familiar with the complications that arise when Indian and federal law collide. While he and his father try to piece together what happened and prepare their case, Geraldine retreats from the world, refusing to disclose the details of her assault.
Joe and his friends prove quite adept at detective work, uncovering clues and tracking the perpetrator. I won't say there's a happy ending here, but the reader is given the satisfaction of knowing who did the crime and what happens to him.
I read "The Round House" in less than a week. The book tackles some heavy issues, not only the rape of Joe's mother, but alcoholism, domestic violence, tribal sovereignty (or lack thereof) and racism against Native Americans. This all sounds pretty bleak, but Erdrich demonstrates strength and hopefulness in the bonds of family, friendship and tribe. There's even a bit of comic relief from the fiesty tribal elders. Winner of the 2012 National Book Award, "The Round House" is a fast-paced read that stays with you days after finishing the last page.
--Jennifer M., Headquarters