Sunday, March 31, 2013

Books: The Round House

The Round House
By Louise Erdrich

The Round House is the story of Joe, a 13-year-old boy living on and Indian reservation in North Dakota (shout out to my home state). His father is a judge and his mother works for the tribe doing tribal enrollment. Ealy In the summer, Joe's mom is brutally raped and attacked. Because tribal law and white and the land around it and the entire system is unnecessarily complicated, there's no real investigation besides the one done by Joe and his father (Mom is rendered helpless by the attacks).

Other main characters include Joe's friends and his extended family (two sets of aunts/uncles and a grandfather). The characters are well-drawn, and life on the Rez is realistically colorful. Joe is a breath of fresh air in that he's not one of these precocious kids usually in books - he thinks and talks and acts like a teenage boy (or at least how I remember teenage boys). The story starts out compelling, but I thought the end wrapped up a bit too neatly - lots of seemingly loose ends. I do agree that the laws in reservations in ND a messy and often things happen without a thorough investigation, but there was too much not followed through.

Does it pass the Bechdel test? No. There are several named female characters, but none of them speak to each other as part of the story (some implied dialog, but it all happens offscreen).

Would I recommend it? Yes. Although I wasn't fond of the end, the story overall was compelling and thought-provoking. I always like Erdrich.

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