Beth Leiss
 
 
    
 
In this May 16, 2008, file photo, author LouiseErdrich reflects on growing up in North Dakota at her store BirchBark Books in Minneapolis. Louise Erdrich wone the 2012 National Book Awatd for her novel "The Round House." (Associated Press)
 
 

"The Round House"

By Louise Erdrich

Harper Collins (publisher)

If you have read any of Louise Erdrich's work you are familiar with her connection to North Dakota. As a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, Erdrich was raised in North Dakota. Her mother was Native American and her father was of German descent.

Erdrich's novels mostly take place in a fictitious reservation set in North Dakota. Her works of fiction often revolve around the same families at different times in the last 100 years and not in any particular order.

As a longtime fan of her work I was looking forward to reading her newest novel, "The Round House." Given rave reviews from all critics and a National Book Award winner, Erdrich has brought together, in one book, a mystery and coming of age story centering around a 13-year-old Native American boy named Joe and the summer that started with a horrible crime to a family member. Joe's father is a tribal judge, and his mother works in social services. Shelves in their home are full of books on law and philosophy. While the family is grappling with the wounds leftover from the crime, Joe is questioning his own moral compass. With understated guidance from his father, he seeks to find the truth of what happened and why. This leads to adventures with his three good friends -- typical teenage trial and error concerning beer, girls, bikes and fast cars. There is plenty of suspicions as to the guilty party and a few surprises, as well.

In effort to check on the authenticity of Erdrich's work, I asked a friend about her perspective on the author's depiction of reservation life. Annette Grant-Mennem, director of the Native American Center at Minot State University, said, "Whether or not you're ... American Indian reading Louise's books, you realize that there is diversity in Indian Country; life on one reservation is different from another reservation. What Louise has done with her books is to depict those differences, and she does a great job giving a sense of what life is about in Native families -- humor, family and extended family, challenges, culture. She helps us to see that there is a difference between race and culture; race is where we come from and culture is how we are brought up. That's true for Indian families no matter where you're brought up -- on the reservation or not, every day is a good day to be Indian."

Expect many twists and turns in this novel. Erdrich makes you question how you would react to the circumstances that Joe is facing in finding his justice. After enjoying this read, if you haven't already done so, go out and pick up every book Erdrich has written. You will be glad you did.



 
Beth Leiss was raised in Bismarck and has always enjoyed reading all kinds of books. Her dream is to pass her love of reading on to her girls as her mother passed it on to her.