The Round House by Louise Erdrich


It’s been a rather slow two weeks for me – B and I moved into and started setting up our first apartment together and I’ve been actively applying for jobs in the nearby area. Nonetheless, I am taking in as many books as I can, devouring them like little chocolate cupcakes, indulging in each one as I would with its delicious chocolate icing.

I finally finished The Round House today, a New York Times bestselling book I picked up hurriedly as the local library in town was about to close one Friday three weeks ago – I didn’t want to be without a book for the weekend! But, my what a sweet surprise it turned out to be.

The novel by American author Louise Erdrich takes place on an Ojibwe reservation in North Dakota, revolving around a 13-year old Joe whose life is turned upside down one evening when he finds his mother, Geraldine, is brutally raped. The story, narrated from an adult Joe, moves on to chronicle his younger self’s attempt to deal with the situation, highlighting as well the emotional trauma that his mother as well as his father, a tribal judge, has to grapple with.

It is a stunning novel, but by “stunning” I do not mean in a loud way but more akin to a beautiful illustration of a sunset, painted by Erdrich. Soft, willowy and heartfelt, it captures the mood of summertime during the late Eighties, reminding me of To Kill a Mockingbird.

Various elements are weaved into the story, from the influence of the Church to rambunctious boyhood adventures lived throughout the reservation. However, the most pressing issue in the book is no doubt the frustrating legal circumstances that Native Americans have to deal revealed in the fact that Geraldine’s rape took place near a ceremonial structure built by older Ojibwe members, called the Round House – an area where state, tribal and federal jurisdictions were drawn up in a confusing manner. In reality, the tangle of web and borders make the prosecution of rape cases difficult, especially when it is by a non-Native American. (A shocking truth that is made even more horrible as Erdrich, in her Afterword points out that 1 in 3 Native women will be raped in her lifetime, while 86% of rapes and sexual assaults of Native women are by non-Native men).

The book was, for me, a look into one of the many harsh realities that Natives in this country have to deal with, including the seizing of their homeland and natural resources (revealed partly through Joe’s grandfather’s dreams of his youth).

As a writer, I am using my time to study the ways in which different types of articles as written – for vivid descriptions of food I turn to bon appetit and for personality and fashion stories it’s Vanity Fair. I am also trying to writer better reviews of books, which is the reason for this space on my blog. I found inspiration for this book review from this article found in The Guardian.


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