Saturday, November 24, 2012
The Round House by Louise Erdrich: 2012 NBA Winner
The Round House
A Novel by Louise Erdrich
Winner the 2012 National Book Award for Fiction
2012 / 264 Pages (ebook)
The 2012 National Book Award Winner, The Round House by Louise Erdrich, is a coming of age story of a 13 year old Native American boy. The story takes place in 1988 and is told from the point of view of the now adult, Joe. It takes place during Joe's summer break; although with all that was packed into those months, the time period seemed much longer.
The book is nicely crafted weaving the coming of age story with a crime novel and sprinkling in a few Indian folk tales. From the beginning, the reader finds out that Joe's mother was raped and the story that unfolds concerns this horrific crime and the way the family relates to the Indian Laws governing issues on and off the reservation perpetrated by non-Indians. This part of the story was engaging, yet somewhat predictable. Erdrich did a good job in giving the reader the basics of Indian Law without being boring. She also did a good job educating the reader of the true horrors that can occur on Indian reservations and the inadequate justice system found on the reservations concerning non-Indians.
I enjoyed the coming of age part of the book the most. Joe and his friends were well thought out and the book contained several pretty typical; yet, engaging coming of age adventures. The cast of characters were many and each added to the story in its own way. I thoroughly enjoyed the description of the Indian ceremonies concerning the round house. My biggest gripe with this portion of the book is the age of the boys and the antics they were involved in seemed implausible for 13 year olds. I can understand the lack of supervision of these boys under the circumstances, but even then I just don't see boys this age being able to get away with the things that they did. Setting their ages at 15 or 16 would have made more sense.
I liked the way Erdrich dropped her hints of the outcome of the book as Joe, the adult, related the story. In many cases, the hint dropped led me to believe the story could take on at least two different directions which kept the book from being too predictable.
The portion of the book that dragged and floundered, in my opinion, was the Indian folk tales. Erdrich attempted to share old Indian lore by relating these tales to the current story. I did not feel that the small tidbit linking the Indian tales to the current story was stories was worth the tedium. I think it also detracted from the main story of the crime and the lack of laws to persecute the perpetrator. I can understand why Erdrich wanted to share the folk stories, but they were really lost on me and ruined the pacing of the book.
Concerning the National Book Awards, personally, I do not think that The Round House was the deserving winner. Ben Fountains, Billy Lynn's Long Half-Time Walk was much better in my opinion and did not have the floundering and dragging portions that were part of The Round House.