Darwin’s Pick: The Round House

The Round House by Louise Erdrich

In this multi-layered story, Louise Erdrich perfectly captures the voice of Joe Coutts, thirteen year old son of the tribal judge and his wife, a tribal enrollment specialist. Joe’s treacherous passage to manhood, fraught with the magnetism of his Ojibwe culture, the poverty of the reservation, his rich and multi-generational extended family, and the pressure of fitting in with his gang of friends interested in doing all the things that 13-year-olds shouldn’t be doing, is suddenly upended when his mother is brutally raped. Violence against Native American women and the lack of justice, an ongoing, if abstract scandal for most, is focused by this case and all its facets: the intricacies of tribal law; the desire for revenge; the bonds of friendship, kinship, and loyalty; grief, and the legal limits of justice. A brilliant capturing of middle-class reservation life in the 80s, through the mind and perceptions of a 13 year-old boy.

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