Tag Archives: Louise Erdrich

EVERY FAMILY NEEDS A LAROSE

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LaRose
Author: Louise Erdrich
Genre: Novel
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!

SEARCHING PEACE AND JUSTICE

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Congratulations to Louise Erdrich, winner of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize Distinguished Achievement Award. This prize recognizes the power of literature to encourage peace and social justice. Named for the diplomat who brokered the Dayton Peace Accords on Bosnia, it is given for a body of work. Previous winners include Elie Wiesel and Wendell Berry.

Like many of us, Erdrich longs for peace among peoples and for individuals. Raised by an Ojibwe-French mother and a German-American father in North Dakota, much of her work deals with honest portraits of people who struggle with cultural differences and the effects of violence. Empathy is a hallmark of her writing.

She lives in Minnesota where she is the owner of Birchbark Books and Native Arts located at 2115 W. 21st Street in Minneapolis. You may order books on line, read her blog or just enjoy reading this informative website. www.birchbarkbooks.com If you are in the area, don’t miss this wonderful bookstore.

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Her work includes poetry, short stories, children’s books, and non-fiction. Below is a thumb-nail of three of her best known books.

Love Medicine. Her first book won the National Book Critics Circle award and explored the plight of some Native Americans.

The Plague of Doves. This novel was the 2009 finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. It deals with racial discord and changing fortunes in North Dakota.

The Round House. This work of fiction won the 2012 National Book Award. The story follows a teen-age boy’s effort to investigate a crime of violence against his mother.

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The titles of her novels read like poetry: Tracks, Four Souls, The Master Butchers Singing Club, The Beet Queen, The Bingo Palace, The Blue Jay’s Dance (non-fiction), The Last Report on the Miracles At Little No Horse. (This is not a complete list.)

I share one line from her poem: “Indian Boarding School: The Runaways” published in a volume entitled Original Fire. “Home’s the place we head for in our sleep.” I hope you will read at least the first stanza and hopefully the entire poem available at the website: www.poetryfoundation.org. (I badly wanted to quote the first stanza. I believe it illustrates how her work awakens our sense of justice for others. Without permission, I feel I should not do so. I hope you will go to the aforementioned website, type the title in the search box, and read this poem.)

If you have not read Ms. Erdrich’s writing, I urge you to choose a book that interests you and lose yourself in the search of an ordinary person for justice. Of course, no person is ordinary, each follows a unique path. Her writing is likely to strengthen your path as you search peace and justice and gift you with the cane of empathy to assist you in your journey.

FIVE GOOD BOOKS YOU MAY HAVE MISSED THIS YEAR

FIVE GOOD BOOKS YOU MAY HAVE MISSED THIS YEAR

Here are five books published this past year, books not written about at length on this blog. I recommend any and all of them. Three are novels, one a collection of short stories, and one a book of poetry.

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Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel. This is the follow-up to her tremendously successful Wolf Hall. Henry the VIII and Thomas Cromwell live on these pages, more real than in real life. Perhaps politics in another age is more fascinating than it seems in our own time. The women can be as ferocious as the men.
“His children are falling from the sky.”

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Canada by Richard Ford. This story took my breath away. A teen-age boy must fend for himself after his family comes undone. I can’t say why but it held my interest more completely than any other book I read this year.
“First I’ll tell about the robbery our parents committed.”

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Dear Life by Alice Munro. This volume of short stories won the Nobel Prize in Literature. It is now #1 on the Trade Paperback bestseller list. Alice Munro at her best is not-to-be-missed.
“I lived when I was young at the end of a long road, or a road that seemed long to me.”

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The Round House by Louise Erdrich. This is probably my favorite book of 2013. There is suspense and urgency to the tale. The story tells of a teen-age boy who tries to help his mother after she is attacked. It addresses a serious subject, justice on a North Dakota Reservation. I am a great admirer of this author’s writing abilities.
“Small trees had attacked my parents’ house at the foundation.”

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A Thousand Mornings: Poems by Mary Oliver. This volume includes a more beautiful poem about a mockingbird than can be imagined. Mary Oliver’s poems heighten experience in the natural world. She is able to capture nature so the world shines. The reader enters that light.
“for he is the thief of other sounds”

Every year there are some books that interest me that I don’t find the time to read. Some, I never even hear about. I love it when a book I missed jumps into my path and brings me a great reading experience. I hope one of these will be that book for you.