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The Painted Drumby Louise Erdrich
Synopses & Reviews
When a woman named Faye Travers is called upon to appraise the estate of a family in her small New Hampshire town, she isn't surprised to discover a forgotten cache of valuable Native American artifacts. After all, the family descends from an Indian agent who worked on the North Dakota Ojibwe reservation that is home to her mother's family. However, she stops dead in her tracks when she finds in the collection a rare drum — a powerful yet delicate object, made from a massive moose skin stretched across a hollow of cedar, ornamented with symbols she doesn't recognize and dressed in red tassels and a beaded belt and skirt — especially since, without touching the instrument, she hears it sound.
From Faye's discovery, we trace the drum's passage both backward and forward in time, from the reservation on the northern plains to New Hampshire and back. Through the voice of Bernard Shaawano, an Ojibwe, we hear how his grandfather fashioned the drum after years of mourning his young daughter's death, and how it changes the lives of those whose paths its crosses. And through Faye we hear of her anguished relationship with a local sculptor, who himself mourns the loss of a daughter, and of the life she has made alone with her mother, in the shadow of the death of Faye's sister.
Through these compelling voices, The Painted Drum explores the strange power that lost children exert on the memories of those they leave behind, and as the novel unfolds, its elegantly crafted narrative comes to embody the intricate, transformative rhythms of human grief. One finds throughout the grace and wit, the captivating prose and surprising beauty, that characterize Louise Erdrich's finest work.
"The worlds of ancestry and tradition, humans and animals (notably, wolves and ravens), living and remembering and dreaming, are here rendered here with extraordinary clarity and insistent emotional impact. Hard to believe, but Erdrich just keeps getting better." Kirkus Reviews
"With fearlessness and humility, in a narrative that flows more artfully than ever between destruction and rebirth, Erdrich has opened herself to possibilities beyond what we merely see...and inspires readers to open their hearts to these mysteries as well." Washington Post
"Rich, dark humor and a lively engagement with the spirits of creatures and objects animate the wry, distant, knowing voice of this novel....The Painted Drum, Erdrich's 11th novel, begins with death and ends with love — a lovely reprise of both its emotional arc and the substance of this unique writer's vision." San Diego Union-Tribune
"Erdrich soars in scenes that are resonant, poetic and exact, visions that will remain imprinted on the reader's mind because of their brilliant mythic overtones." Los Angeles Times
"Cunningly plotted yet overwritten...[A] tedious read. That's a pity, because the three stories the novel weaves together, each offering insight into mother-child relationships, merit attention." Chicago Tribune
"Twenty-one years and 11 books later, [Erdrich's] characters are no less fascinating and their stories no less compelling, as evidenced in her remarkable new novel." Rocky Mountain News
"All of the voices that weave in and out of this narrative are, by turns, mournful and funny, rueful and proud, and always, even within the bleakest of circumstances, full of hope." Booklist (Starred Review)
"This is simply a good book....Longtime readers of Erdrich are unlikely to rank it among her very best, but it nonetheless bears the marks of her mastery as a writer: neatly etched characters, finely calibrated prose, and flashes of wisdom and wit throughout." Christian Science Monitor
"Louise Erdrich never ceases to amaze readers with her elegant prose and her penetrating insight into the human psyche. In her twelfth novel, The Painted Drum, she crafts an intricate story about the overlapping lives in a small New Hampshire town and the reverberating effects of a family's tragedy." Tin House magazine
The Painted Drum explores the strange power that lost children exert on the memories of those they leave behind, and as the novel unfolds, its elegantly crafted narrative comes to embody the intricate, transformative rhythms of human grief. One finds throughout the grace and wit, the captivating prose and surprising beauty, that characterize Louise Erdrich's finest work.
While appraising the estate of a New Hampshire family descended from a North Dakota Indian agent, Faye Travers is startled to discover a rare moose skin and cedar drum fashioned long ago by an Ojibwe artisan. And so begins an illuminating journey both backward and forward in time, following the strange passage of a powerful yet delicate instrument, and revealing the extraordinary lives it has touched and defined.
Compelling and unforgettable, Louise Erdrich's Painted Drum explores the often fraught relationship between mothers and daughters, the strength of family, and the intricate rhythms of grief with all the grace, wit, and startling beauty that characterizes this acclaimed author's finest work.
About the Author
Louise Erdrich is the author of eleven novels as well as volumes of poetry, children's books, and a memoir of early motherhood. Her novel Love Medicine won the National Book Critics Circle Award. The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse was a finalist for the National Book Award. She lives in Minnesota with her daughters and is the owner of Birchbark Books, a small independent bookstore.
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