Louise Erdrich is a critically acclaimed Native American author who has written over a dozen novels and been honored with a National Book Award, Anisfield-Wolf Award, National Book Critics Circle Award, the Library of Congress Award in Fiction and other distinctions. Some of her novels, like Love Medicine, are classics that are frequently taught in American and Native American literature classes. So far I’ve read The Crown of Columbus (co-authored with Michael Dorris), and The Master Butchers Singing Club. The former is a light yet enjoyable read, and the latter a family saga full of heart that you never want to end.
I picked up The Roundhouse this past December and I found it to be both lovely and troubling. It’s beautiful because you just want to reach out into the pages and embrace some of her characters. I was also impressed by the weaving of the past with the present, and the joining of myth to realistic narrative. (The novel challenges the opposition between myth and truth, or magic and reality.) On the other hand, The Roundhouse is a tough read because it’s about rape and it’s hard to take sometimes.
One of the jacket blurbs says The Roundhouse is like To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Maybe so, in a sense. The protagonist’s father is a judge and he’s as sympathetic as the original Atticus Finch. Also, a lot of the novel takes place in the world of boys. Like Harper Lee, Erdrich treats her characters with tremendous affection, creating a cozy feel. But the rape at the center of the novel’s plot is like a shiver of cold steel.