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The Round House


The Round House Cover

ISBN13: 9780062065247
ISBN10: 0062065246
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
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vzwick, April 12, 2013 (view all comments by vzwick)
Unforgettable, brilliantly written, horrific, hilarious, deeply moving, educational, sad, heart warming and hopeful, The Round House is my favorite book of this year. Erdrich creates characters that become so real to me that I know them like long lost friends. And there are a lot of characters -- each different and each wholly developed. Sometimes the story meanders but the characters are still there to delight. It is a very difficult story to take about a 13 year old Ojibwe boy whose mother is brutally raped. His father is a judge and tries to get justice for his beloved wife, himself, and his son but is handicapped by the conflicting laws -- federal, state, and tribal. The boy is the narrator and so we absorb the story from his point of view. Thankfully it is interspersed with lighter, sometimes genuinely hilarious moments -- I laughed out loud twice, and with history and interpretation of Indian law, mythology, and magic realism.

The Round House is reminiscent of To Kill A Mockingbird in its portrayal of family love and in the quality of writing. It is probably the best written book I've read in years. I highly recommend it!
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planetnomad5, January 31, 2013 (view all comments by planetnomad5)
Joe has just turned 13 in the summer of 1988, on a hot Sunday afternoon during which his father takes a nap and he sits and reads his father’s law book. When they realize that Geraldine, Joe’s mother, hasn’t come home, they are both unnerved. She arrives home and can’t get out of her car, sitting frozen and shaken. She’s covered in blood and urine and reeking of gasoline, refusing to speak, except to make sure Joe knows she’s okay. However she is obviously not okay. Once home from the hospital, she takes to her bed and refuses to leave it, slipping away from them into her own dark place. Frantic with worry, her husband and son turn to each other and away from each other in the manner of all people when tragedy strikes. Joe finds himself increasingly alone, wanting desperately to return his family to how they were before the attack, taking on a parental role and seeking to protect his mother and even his father from further harm of any kind.
Her attack rips open the small tight-knit Ojibwe community, located on the edge of the “rez” where people interact with various white landowners and shopkeepers. As Joe begins to search for answers, he learns new questions as long-forgotten resentments and past sins begin to bubble to the surface. His mother is in charge of the tribal census and his father is a Judge and they obviously know or suspect more than they’re telling him. He’s a teenage boy, and he and his 3 close friends get into all sorts of trouble as they come up with improbable ideas and explore them. He identifies the place of the attack, the Round House, which is a spiritual and cultural center for his people, and he begins to hear more of the origins of the building from his grandfather.
Geraldine’s attacker put a bag over her head, and she isn’t sure whether the rape took place on tribal land or federal land. The law is different in each case, and even though she identifies her rapist and there is a clear-cut case against him, he is released from prison because Indians don’t have the right to prosecute non-Indians who commit crimes on their land. If she can’t prove it was non-tribal land, she has no case against him. Geraldine wonders herself why she doesn’t lie, claim to have identified the land as non-tribal, but she can’t--her husband and child would know she was lying. And even though they would forgive her and support her, she clings to her integrity. A local priest describes sins that “cry out to Heaven for justice,” and the phrase resonates like a bell, and gives Joe both the direction he seeks and justification for what he feels is right.
In many ways, this is a coming of age story. We enter into the heads of Joe and his close friends/cousins Cappy, Angus and Zack, into their loves and lusts and dreams. They sneak around behind their parents’ backs, ride their bikes for miles, even steal a car at one point. They’re pain-filled and pain-free, invincible, heart-broken and lost all in one. But, you feel, as long as they have each other, they’ll survive. There are many comic touches, as Erdrich’s deft touch with dialogue and character brings people to life.
The Round House is exquisitely written. I read a LOT of books, and this one really stood out for me--one of our best writers, writing at the top of her form. Highly, highly recommended.
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vee.9, January 30, 2013 (view all comments by vee.9)
Young teen Joe works religiously to collect evidence in the brutal rape of his beloved mother. Beautifully written, based on reservation life in North Dakota.
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MMD, January 30, 2013 (view all comments by MMD)
Great balance of suspense, cultural commentary, insight into American Indian Rez life, boy coming of age story and parent-child relationship. The character of the mom is so gently but deeply sketched. Go Louise!
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Maribeth, January 30, 2013 (view all comments by Maribeth)
Beautifully written perspective of living in America today as a Native American. Shares the unique emotional, mental and relationship struggles of a young man dealing with coming to age. Noting as the best book read this year because it took me someplace I didnt expect to go and taught me something I didnt know I needed to learn.
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Product Details

Erdrich, Louise
General Fiction
Literature-A to Z
Edition Description:
Publication Date:
9 x 6 x 1.09 in 18 oz

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The Round House Used Hardcover
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$14.95 In Stock
Product details 336 pages Harper - English 9780062065247 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

Exploring themes of crime, justice, and revenge, Erdrich spins a tale of the brutal rape of a Native American woman who lives on a reservation in North Dakota. When 13-year-old Joe's mother is raped and very nearly murdered, he watches as his family disintegrates into something completely foreign. Because his mother doesn't know exactly where she was during the attack, there is no clear road to justice. Was the crime perpetrated by a white or Native American man? Was the crime committed on tribal lands or not? Justice, unfortunately divided by white/non-white and tribal/non-tribal distinctions, often leaves Native American victims with absolutely no recourse at all. Or is there? Crushed by the horrific situation (further complicated by subsequent events) and tortured by the freedom of his mother's rapist, Joe begins to contemplate his own vision of justice. Threaded throughout with exquisite Native American stories, with an explosive climax and a shocking ending, The Round House is an amazing look at a group of people who are resilient beyond imagination.

"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Erdrich, a Pulitzer Prize finalist, sets her newest (after Shadow Tag) in 1988 in an Ojibwe community in North Dakota; the story pulses with urgency as she probes the moral and legal ramifications of a terrible act of violence. When tribal enrollment expert Geraldine Coutts is viciously attacked, her ordeal is made even more devastating by the legal ambiguities surrounding the location and perpetrator of the assault — did the attack occur on tribal, federal, or state land? Is the aggressor white or Indian? As Geraldine becomes enveloped by depression, her husband, Bazil (the tribal judge), and their 13-year-old son, Joe, try desperately to identify her assailant and bring him to justice. The teen quickly grows frustrated with the slow pace of the law, so Joe and three friends take matters into their own hands. But revenge exacts a tragic price, and Joe is jarringly ushered into an adult realm of anguished guilt and ineffable sadness. Through Joe's narration, which is by turns raunchy and emotionally immediate, Erdrich perceptively chronicles the attack's disastrous effect on the family's domestic life, their community, and Joe's own premature introduction to a violent world. Agent: Andrew Wiley." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Review" by , "A stunning and devastating tale of hate crimes and vengeance...Erdrich covers a vast spectrum of history, cruel loss, and bracing realizations. A preeminent tale in an essential American saga."
"Review" by , "Erdrich skillfully makes Joe's coming-of-age both universal and specific...the story is also ripe with detail about reservation life, and with her rich cast of characters, Erdrich provides flavor, humor and depth. Joe's relationship with his father, Bazil, a judge, has echoes of To Kill a Mockingbird."
"Review" by , "Erdrich threads a gripping mystery and multilayered portrait of a community through a deeply affecting coming-of-age novel."
"Review" by , "A sweeping, suspenseful outing from this prizewinning, generation-spanning chronicler of her Native American people, the Ojibwe of the northern plains...a sumptuous tale."
"Review" by , "Moving, complex, and surprisingly uplifting...likely to be dubbed the Native American To Kill a Mockingbird."
"Review" by , "Riveting....One of Erdrich's most suspenseful novels....It vividly portrays both the deep tragedy and crazy comedy of life."
"Review" by , "One can only Erdrich's amazing ability to do what so few of us can — shape words into phrases and sentences of incomparable beauty that, then, pour forth a mesmerizing story."
"Synopsis" by , 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.

Written with undeniable urgency, and illuminating the harsh realities of contemporary life in a community where Ojibwe and white live uneasily together, The Round House is a brilliant and entertaining novel, a masterpiece of literary fiction. Louise Erdrich embraces tragedy, the comic, a spirit world very much present in the lives of her all-too-human characters, and a tale of injustice that is, unfortunately, an authentic reflection of what happens in our own world today.

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