The weaving of characters stories is interesting, but not on par with the Painted Drum or what her former husband Michael Dorris did in Yellow Raft on Blue Waters The plot has so much potential and the writing is so compelling that it was disappointing that it didn t come together dramatically.
In the author s comments Erdrich says that she created this novel by joining a bunch of stories she had previously written It feel like it I d like to see someone of her caliber write a carefully constructed book, eliminating the extraneous pieces that doesn t add to the story.
louise erdrich wrote this with the wind of the spirit at her heels what amazing writing i m going slowly, because a the writing is too beautiful to hurry b the story is too intense to hurry and, less fancifully, c i need a solid plot directed narrative to keep me going these days, and this book doesn t have one, so i am reading when the need for aforementioned is not too pressing this novel goes back and forth in time and space, focusing on a host of characters of mixed indian white ethnicity in some state up north i can t tell them apart in real life so i read their names fast and don t retain them in my memory minnesota north dakota one of those some of these characters are straight out of flannery o connor, others are funny some chapters are pure adventure, others are magical realist, others are moving, others are simply deranged but this is louise erdrich territory, and everything is delightful in its own way there are strong women there are tender, damaged men there is the tragedy of the land and the tragedy of race there is the inescapable tragedy of human nature.
many of these chapters were published separately and the book has a disjointed feel, as if it were a collection of loosely connected long short stories at the same time, there is a clear vision keeping it all together, as if erdrich had imagined one of those bruegel paintings then decided to tell us what s behind it, one character at a time, with all the time in the world to go back and tell the story from the beginning, properly.
for the record, i m not even trying to keep the characters straight i m sure erdrich doesn t expect me to and seriously, who cares who s married to whom and who s the cousin of whom they are all interrelated and it s a rum world out there anyway.
The Unsolved Murder Of A Farm Family Still Haunts The White Small Town Of Pluto, North Dakota, Generations After The Vengeance Exacted And The Distortions Of Fact Transformed The Lives Of Ojibwe Living On The Nearby ReservationPart Ojibwe, Part White, Evelina Harp Is An Ambitious Young Girl Prone To Falling Hopelessly In Love Mooshum, Evelina S Grandfather, Is A Repository Of Family And Tribal History With An All Too Intimate Knowledge Of The Violent Past And Judge Antone Bazil Coutts, Who Bears Witness, Understands The Weight Of Historical Injustice Better Than Anyone Through The Distinct And Winning Voices Of Three Unforgettable Narrators, The Collective Stories Of Two Interwoven Communities Ultimately Come Together To Reveal A Final Wrenching Truth Can I keep giving all the books I read this year four or five stars Is my judgement becoming less and less credible assuming it had any credibility in the first place May I just say that it s all Goodreads fault, and the many Goodreaders you know who you are who ve led me to these authors and books that so precisely fulfill my every literary desire I m getting ruthless at picking and choosing among my to read pile, going only for those I know will satisfy me the responsibility for which must be laid again firmly at the feet of Goodreads and Goodreaders So there, if you are getting fewer reviews and these meaningless and unvarying 4 and 5 star ratings from me, you have only yourself to blame And I am too busy reading 4 and 5 star books to pay much attention or care.
REVIEW The Plague of Doves reads like a connected set of short stories, which as I found out in the end notes is what it started out as While there was a loose narrative strand woven like a straw through these vignettes a shocking event in the prologue, unravelled by the final chapter that is not why you should read this, if you haven t yet.
No, it s for Erdrich s poetic, penetrating, raw insights They left me breathless They have both edge and lyricism in them They are gritty, spare and harsh while also infused with an ethereal, magical reality, e.
gI had expected to feel joy but instead felt a confusion of sorrow, or maybe fear, for it seemed that my life was a hungry story and I its source, and with this kiss I had now begun to deliver myself into the wordsEvelina, p 20 and, unexpected and prevalent, a razor sharp black humour, e.
gMama said so, and when we fought she shut us up by saying, Just imagine how you d feel if something happenedImagining the other dead helped us enjoy each other s companyEvelina, p 28 The entire exchange between Joseph Evelina s father and Mooshum, starting withIs your sister fond of flowers What is her favorite Stinging nettles What were her charming habits when she was young She could fart the national anthem She s got her teeth, no All of them Except the ones she left in her husbandsp 35 Spirituality is treated with the complexity it deserves, e.
g the incredibly touching scenes between Evelina and Sister Mary Anita, and the way she describes how Shamengwa and Mooshum goad Father Cassidy.
And lines, snippets of dialogue, fleeting imagery that seem tossed off, but are deceptively important Erdrich, like any poet, is deliberate in her descriptionsMy uncle Warren, who would stare and stare at you like he was watching your blood move and your food digestMarn Wolde, p 139Looking into my father s eyes you would see the knowledge, tender and offhand, of the ways roots took hold in the earthp 139 How she deals with madness and sadness the entire Marn Wolde section, but especially Marn s descriptions of how and why she dissociatesThe words are inside and outside of me, hanging in the air like small pottery triangles, broken and curved chokengistitikchokeng 145 all of p 146 spectacular, haunting imagery The music The violin, how it unites and divides a family how it cures and killsThat I must play was important to me than my father s pain It was a question of survival, after all If I had not found the music, I would have died of the silenceShamengwa, p 203 Music and stories magic and madness brutality and guilt and, most of all, loveHer face, and my father s face, were naked with love It wasn t something that we talked about love and I was terrified of its expression from the lips of my parents But they allowed me this one clear look at it Their love blazed from them And then they left I think now that everything that was concentrated in that one look their care in raising me, their patient lessons in every subject they knew to teach, their wincing efforts to give me freedoms, their example of fortitude in work allowed me to survive myselfEvelina, p 222 The entire Evelina section, from her Anais Nin obsession to her bad poetry to her descent into her own hell and rise out of it, stands alone and shines, shines, shines with pain and longing growth and survival even triumph Sometimes, often, Erdrich leads you down a paragraph or chapter and then concludes wham with a milestone plot point someone died came or left endured or was destroyed that has its impact rooted in the surprise of its inevitability.
She doesn t make you feel angry at not seeing it coming she just leaves you in awe that she got you there so subtly and cleverly And then she gifts you with this insight that has about 12 million layers of meaning and resonance with the story, the other characters, and your own life Because she s a poet, and poetry does that.
I love her.
I m so glad she s written so many books, and I can savour them in turn without the anxiety of soon running out Although, these are definitely books that bear and deserve re reading.
This is the first novel I ve read set in a twentieth century setting about French and American Indian descendants and the prejudices with which they ve had to live It has a fascinating and meandering plot with interesting characters peppered throughout Ultimately it s a who done it For me, the ending was a tad of a letdown because you find out who but you don t find out why.
Interweaves the oral history 1st person narratives of the members of a N Dakota town reservation to look at the aftermath effects of an isolated murder of a white family and subsequent lynching of several innocent Indians I couldn t read this in one sitting, so I was finding myself having a hard time keeping all of the different threads and families straight There seemed to be so many that by the end when a new one started, I couldn t help thinking, yikes, when is she is going to pull all of this together She does, but I was still left scratching my head on a few things Several of the storylines are incredible Marn Wolde s Evelina Harp s were my favorites , but some of the others weren t compelling enough for me to really love the book as a whole.
I have to be missing something about this book I even went back and read the first page again and it didn t help Why introduce the baby and then the baby as old woman and have nothing of her between except toward the end a brief description of her through the eyes of her lover And why let Judge Coutts tell that story in flashback After he married Geraldine Too many flashbacks may be part of the problem I feel like I ve got whiplash.
This has to be one of the disjointed books Erdrich has ever written She s employing her usual style of multiple first person narrators, which is familiar and comfortable and usually very effective, but the characters themselves seem to me to be lacking in strength of voice, and their stories leave ends dangling all over the place, with too few and too tenuous connections to form a coherent whole Did she try to do too much here Did her editor let her down I just looked and Tracks is only 224 pages long This one is 311 She could have cut 100 pages of Doves and had a much better and coherent novel.
Every now and then there are flashes of the old Erdrich, like Mustache Maude and Evalina s family s penchant for deathless romance, but these are too few and far between What did Evalina tripping on the acid and being seduced by a lesbian in a mental institution there s a whole novel right there have to do with either of the mass murders What did Joseph Coutt s interminable encounter with town fever have to do with the mass murders The kidnapping Marne Wolde and Billy Peace Erdrich s Elmer Gantry For that matter, The Plague of Doves The big reveal at the end, with Baby Doc healing her family s murderer, feels like she was desperate for a name for the killer and went paging back until she found one not too obvious, and then beefed up his part my Uncle Warren, who would stare and stare at you like he was watching your blood move and your food digest Warren s face was a chopping block, his long arms hung heavy He flew into disorderly rages and went missing for days sometimes p 139 so he d fill his after assigned role That s just not enough for me to believe he killed five people, and certainly not enough for me to understand why The folded money he leaves for herwell, if he s a madman he wouldn t only have killed once, and if he s an insane madman he wouldn t have tried to buy his own absolution I did wonder if she let him heal wrong so he d gimp around for the rest of his life It s a nice thought Erdrich says in back that The book revolves or spins off of a lynching of Native Americans which is a terrific idea, but she doesn t keep the focus of the narrative on it That would be okay if I cared about the characters I would have followed Fleur or Nanapush anywhere I don t.
Erdrich says, This act of vengeance reverberates throughout the whole community for generations I didn t see that Mooshum s story of the hanging teeters between slapstick and comedy The only time I truly feel the tragedy is when he s looking up at Holy Track s feet, walking on air Later, when Evelina finds the boots, I don t know why she s so angry And why do we never see the scene where Mooshum tells Erdrich says, by the end, people are so intertwined and intermixed that one of the descendants of both the lynchers and the victim says, There s no unraveling the rope We re all in this together I didn t feel that Pluto, good name, the orphaned planet literally blowing away on the wind at the end, reminded me of a latter day mini Dust Bowl, an ecological disaster, maybe, but the human horror of the two different murders is a distantly felt thing, engaging neither the characters between the covers or me reading it It shouldn t be.
My verdict Very unsatisfying.
William Faulkner meets Toni MorrisonThis was a pleasant and downright surprising acquaintance with an author who until now was completely unknown to me Louise Erdrich apparently already has written a whole oeuvre, but this book was her real, albeit late, breakthrough 2008 The relationship with Faulkner is immediately noticeable just like the Nobel Laureate, all her books are set in a very limited geographical area in the United States in her case in North Dakota, with its many Indian I think I should say Native American reservates and a very mixed population Erdrich herself is of Indian German French origin Another accordance with Faulkner the technique of telling stories from different narrative positions, which regularly makes reading a difficult challenge, but has also an enormously enriching effect Even than Faulkner, Erdrich manages to mix the various storylines into a tangle that ingeniously merges at the end A bloody mass murder in 1911 and the subsequent lynching of a group of innocent Native Americans is the recurring junction.
The style of Erdrich reminded me very much of Toni Morrison, especially when she went on the magical realistic tour at some moments and also because of the very deeply human way in which the different actors tell their own story But Erdrich has clearly developed her own style, which conceals a whole emotional world behind very striking, sometimes raw looking details And the Native American context of course adds to give her writing an own texture For the sake of clarity this is not a simple book, you really have to keep your mind on it Erdrich also uses various literary registers she regularly jumps from an ego narration to a third narrator s point of view , and she alternates rock hard dramatic scenes with surreal fragments and also with hilarious comical passages Not everything is worked out well enough, or is functional in the big storyline, because most chapters were apparently first published as separate stories left and right, and then connected in this book But what remains is an impression of how complex a human life can be, and how the past inevitably leaves its deep traces into the present From now on, Louise Erdrich is on my radar.
We open with a scene of mass murder A child Moses, Kal El is spared when the killer s weapon jams He quiets the baby with music Violence and music permeate the following tales and only at the very end do we learn who the baby grew up to be and the identity of the killer There are other atrocities to come How these events came to be and the ongoing impact of time and transformation define this book.
Multiple narrators, multiple generations, much overlap between Native Americans and European settlers This is apparently typical of her work I began my character catalog by dividing between Native and European, but it became clear in time that there was too much intermarriage for that to be truly meaningful I suppose one could add a mixed blood section, but then what about quatroons, et al One narrator, Evelina, relates the stories told by her grandfather, Seraph Milk, also known as Mooshum There are many to be told In one striking scene, set in 1896, masses of passenger pigeons are devouring all the crops and seem biblical in their pestilential impact Very grabbing Other events are far too familiar, bigotry, lynching, murders, madness, greed The characters are interesting and the stories intriguing There are many characters and I often had trouble keeping them straight In fact, entire train rides I do most of my reading while commuting on the subway were sometimes taken up with cataloguing them This book needs a family tree illustration to help the reader keep track of the characters a comment I saw often repeated when I searched for information about the author on line.
There are many tales in this book, taking place over several generations in North Dakota It is almost as if Erdrich had collected short stories and used a central core of blood relations to unite them In fact, the acknowledgements section notes several magazines and short story collections in which parts of the book had previously appeared, lending support to that notion I still do not know if the book was intended originally as a novel or pieced together from short stories So, who killed the family and who was the spared child We get there in good time, with many side trips to the branches of the local family trees It is a rewarding journey with stories that grab and hold on, sometimes magical language, and memorable characters.
This is a book worth re reading Once one has a sense of the whole, it becomes easier to pick out the elements, the relationships, the literary elements when traveling the path a second time, to see how Erdrich traces the echo of events down the corridors of time Highly recommended, but take your time, keep track and savor in trade paper 4 23 13 Last night, while I was at a vigil for Orlando, I saw a woman affiliated with the Salt Lake Islamic Society stand in front of an audience of two thousand and weep She spoke of the hatred she faced every single day as a Muslim woman She spoke about being demonized She spoke of the way her faith taught her to love And she wept because someone had taken something so valuable to her and twisted it with his own hatred to kill fifty people She stood in solidarity with the victims, offered her support and love and quietly took her seat I foolishly forgot to write down her name, assuming I could find it, assuming any honest account of the evening would talk about the way she moved the entire crowd But no matter where I looked, she seemed forgotten Meanwhile, circling my social media feeds from now unfriended acquaintances and relatives were loud proclamations condemning all Muslims, and using tragedy to further xenophobic agendas The tragedy at the center of The Plague of Doves unfolds in the same way The moment the gunsmoke settles, thinly veiled racism turns four innocent dead bodies into seven when three Ojibwe men are lynched for a crime they had no means or opportunity to commit The small world around them is left fractured for generations under the weight of seven honest people gone too soon the town of Pluto and the nearby reservation must both find a way to heal from the acts of evil they ve been exposed to While I m not going to ruin the identity of the shooter Erdrich reveals him in the last few pages I must say that the mystery element of this book seemed to be a complete afterthought I also must say that I really didn t mind Early on, Erdrich forgets her concern for hatred and turns the attention of the novel to the slow forming, fragile bonds the two communities create as a form of healing Mooshum turns to Shamegwa to be able to cope with his survivor s guilt Sister Mary Anita joins the convent to atone for the sins of her fathers Evelina and Corwin are drawn together by the force of a shared history All forget about justice because they need normalcy instead They all come together to forget the sounds the towns made crying out for vengeance in hopes that they can make the world a better place I wonder if that s not why I was drawn to this book after Orlando Omar Matteen s justice will never come But neither will any sort of large scale American recovery if we use his evil to silence people like the woman who spoke at the vigil This is the fifth book by Erdrich I ve read and the fourth I would not hesitate to call a masterpiece I ve been in a bit of a reading slump lately, but her passion was enough to pull me out of it I cannot recommend this book enough.