Author: Louise Erdrich
Publisher: Harper Collins, 2016
Hardcover Edition: 372 pages
Source: Personal Copy
Would that we could all be saved by a LaRose! Erdrich tells stories like no other author. Her stories explore, families, children, parenting, justice, love, resentment, grief––the dark and light of living. She holds extraordinary ability as a writer. Readers have come to expect beautiful prose, sentences of amazing ease and structure. Here, the way she brings her characters to life––their talk, their fears, their ways of being–– is truly and marvelously compelling.
LaRose is quite possible Erdrich’s most readable novel. Her characters strive, strive to be what they see as their best selves. They inspire each other. The most inspiring is the title character, the young boy, LaRose. He is the namesake of generations of his ancestors.
The contemporary story deals with two families. When the five-year-old son of the Ravich family is accidentally killed by Pete Ravich’s good friend Landreaux, Landreaux and his wife Emmaline decide to give their son LaRose to Pete and Nola Ravitch. LaRose is the same age as Dusty, the boy who was killed. The families are locked in struggle, grief and friendship.
Stories from the past take readers to Boarding Schools for American Indian children and further back to fur-trading days. Erdrich is known for her portrayal of different aspects of life for Native Americans in North Dakota. Readers are filled with both the complexity of history and also the tangles of contemporary life lived at the edge of a powerful spirit world as well as the hardships of real world existence. The children of both families are finely drawn, fiercely protective of each other. They navigate bullying, sexual attack, volleyball, family chores and nail polish fashions, all while supporting and saving each other. The precipices and rocky shores of grief lend danger to every experience.
It is wrenching to leave the characters behind when the story finishes. Erdrich often brings some of her characters back for more stories. Readers will hope she does it again with these characters. One of the true joys of this read is the children: growing, learning, loving. Few authors write about children of all ages with such skill. Erdrich is astute and loving toward the children of the story, and indeed, toward all of her characters. The true joy of this reading experience mitigates the grief that lives in every sentence and every event. This is another best book of 2016!