My English graduate student association chose Louise Erdrich’s The Round House for our latest book club, and it was the first time we all came to a consensus on a book: we really, really liked it.
The Round House begins with a violent attack on Geraldine Coutts, a character from The Plague of Doves. [In fact, The Round House is a companion or sequel of sorts to Plague of Doves–therefore, my reading Plague first gave me some insight into the older characters.] The novel opens with Geraldine’s son Joe, the novel’s protagonist, who, with his father, searches for Geraldine until they find her in the driveway, covered in blood, vomit, and urine, looking dazed and pale. They take her to a hospital where they discover that she’s been violently raped and it’s connected to a case she was called in for. Joe determines, with his group of friends, to find the rapist and bring him to justice. Thus begins the coming-of-age novel that alternates family drama with Native American imagery and folklore, as well as postmodern style. It’s a heavy book but shot through with moments of endearing friendship or dirty comic relief, thanks to grandparents Mooshum and Grandma Thunder (Ignatia is her proper name).
This novel actually reminded me a lot of To Kill a Mockingbird, especially towards the end. I’ve always wondered how a community enacts or justifies “local justice,” and what it does to the individuals who take the law into their own hands. Joe is a compelling protagonist, and should Erdrich revisit his life as an adult, I would be very glad. Her characters are dynamic and fully rendered, just as her style is eloquent but not overbearing. I honestly believe this is my favorite book of hers that I’ve read.