Archive for March, 2013

The Round House

Monday, March 18th, 2013

By Louise Erdrich

The Short Take:

Of course, it’s a National Book Award Winner, so expectations are high. Erdrich does not disappoint. This tale of a Native American teen’s response to his mother’s brutal rape grabs you in its teeth and refuses to let go. This tale of revenge and the price it carries well deserves its accolades.

Why?

This novel that celebrates deep friendships and family loyalties also explores the crippling pain certain actions can cause. Whether it is denying a malformed infant, enjoying an illicit love, or having a thirst for revenge — there is a price to be paid, and it’s not always the one you would expect.

Beyond all that, Erdrich’s nuanced portrait of life on the “rez” is compelling and — for people as removed as I am — eye opening. By weaving the complex legal issues that Native Americans face into the plot, she exposes some of the myriad problems they face. There is also a shining thread of spirituality running throughout the book, whether espoused by the ex-Marine priest or Joe’s visionary grandfather.

It’s a rich tale, indeed.

A Little Plot:

When Joe’s mother is beaten and raped it changes his world. Until then, he’d led a relatively middle class life on the Ojibwe reservation. Now his mother hides in her bed and because she is not sure exactly where the rape took place, jurisdictions for investigating, charging, and trying the rapist are confused.

It looks like nothing can be done, even though everyone wants to do something.

Erdrich seems not to have her own webpage, but you can learn more about her at Wikipedia by clicking here.

Wise Men

Sunday, March 3rd, 2013

By Stuart Nadler

The Short Take:

I am breaking my own rule and talking bad about this book. It’s just mighty thin gruel. Every time you think things are going to get interesting, the story jumps years ahead. Basically, it’s about a father/son beyond-strained relationship and the son’s obsessions.

Why?

The above pretty much says it all. The actual reading was pleasant enough and it kept me turning the pages, but I was in search of something — anything — that never seemed to happen.

I thought long and hard before deciding to go this negative route. Usually, if I’m not completely enthusiastic about a book I try to give a review that highlights what is good about it. But this one had such potential and then didn’t deliver. All the elements were there: a lawyer father suddenly rich beyond imagination, his already-disaffected son who dislikes the changes in their lives, a budding interracial romance in the 1950s, hinted-at mysteries — but nothing seems to go anywhere.

The son spends most his his life wondering about the girl he meets a total of three times and avoiding the money his dad wants to lavish on him. Then just three spoken words…

That’s already too much plot. Let’s just say, that the very last page has a BIG revelation (unless you figured it out earlier) that explains a whole lot about the dad. However, even though the son is the narrator, you never understand him at all.

By the way, most reviewers seem to love this book, so maybe you should listen to them instead.

A Little Plot:

Arthur Wise represents the families of those who die in a plane crash and it makes this formerly struggling attorney very, very rich. His son, Hilly, who already  has a conflicted relationship with his father, thoroughly resents their move to Cape Cod and their new wealth.

Hilly is interested in the African-American man, Lem, that comes with their new home (remember, this is the 50s), even though his father advises Hilly to stay away from him. Lem has visitors one day  — his niece and her father. Hilly is completely enchanted with the young woman, Savannah.

Hilly’s life is ultimately shaped by his obsession with Savannah and what happens with Lem.

For more about Nadler, you van visit his website by clocking here.

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