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Monday, October 29, 2012

Photo of Louise Erdrich and Book Review of The Roundhouse

Book Signing with Louise Erdrich at IFOA Festival: Photo By Nathan Adler  

 I finally met my favorite author, Louise Erdrich at the International Festival of Authors at the Fleck Dance Theatre Harbourfront Centre (October 28, 2012)

Book Review: The Roundhouse
By: Christine McFarlane

Written By: Louise Erdrich
Published By: Harper Collins Canada
317 Pages

Louise Erdrich, the author of fourteen novels, as well as volumes of poetry, short stories, children’s books, and a memoir of early motherhood has written another great book “The Roundhouse.”

The Roundhouse is a brilliant novel that illuminates the harsh realities of contemporary life in a community where Ojibway and white live uneasily together. Louise Erdrich writes about tragedy, the comic, a spirit world very much present in the lives of the characters, the Coutts family, and a tale of injustice that is, unfortunately, an authentic reflection of what still happens on reserves across North America.

The story begins in the summer of 1988, when Geraldine Coutts living on a reservation in North Dakota is attacked. After not coming home right away from a run to the tribal offices on the reserve, Joe and his father go out to find her. As they are driving around looking for her, they see her car tear past them in a cloud of dust. Thinking that there is nothing wrong, they laugh, follow her car back to their house and take their time to park the car and walk up the hill to greet her.

It is when they notice that Geraldine is still sitting in the driver’s seat, and not moving; that they realize something is wrong. Joe’s father opens the car door and sees the blood. Prying his wife’s hands from the steering wheel and lifting her from the car, they jump into the car once again and bring Geraldine to the hospital.

It is heartbreaking to read about the journey to the hospital and how 13-year-old Joe is transformed from a kid to a caregiver in a matter of seconds, as he holds his mom in the car and tries to soothe her. After a stay in the hospital, Geraldine is understandably traumatized and reluctant to relive or reveal the details of what happened to anyone.

The Coutts family dynamic shifts after the attack. Where Geraldine was once a very active tribal council member on the reserve, the attack leaves her lying in bed and slipping further into an abyss of solitude and depression, that Joe and his father cannot seem to help her out of. Joe’s father struggles with anger and grief and tries in vain to heal his wife, and increasingly alone, Joe finds himself thrust prematurely into an adult world in which he is ill prepared to cope with.

It is when Joe’s father, who is a tribal judge invites Joe one night into his study to read old cases with him, in order to try and find clues of who his wife’s attacker is, that more and more questions pile up. Joe, tiring of just reading and not doing anything,  goes to his friends, Cappy, Zack and Angus to see if they can get some answers on their own. This takes Joe and his friends to the Round House, a sacred space and place of worship for the Ojibway.

Louise Erdrich’s novel “The RoundHouse” is very deep and thought provoking. It’s a book that pulls you right into the Coutts family and how a young boy deals with a terrible crime that forever transforms his family. 

(Previously Published on

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