Summary and book reviews of The Plague of Doves by Louise Erdrich

The Plague of Doves

A Novel

By Louise Erdrich

The Plague of Doves
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  • Hardcover: Apr 2008,
    320 pages.
    Paperback: May 2009,
    320 pages.

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs

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About this Book

Book Summary

Louise Erdrich's mesmerizing new novel, her first in almost three years, centers on a compelling mystery. The unsolved murder of a farm family haunts the small, white, off-reservation town of Pluto, North Dakota. The vengeance exacted for this crime and the subsequent distortions of truth transform the lives of Ojibwe living on the nearby reservation and shape the passions of both communities for the next generation. The descendants of Ojibwe and white intermarry, their lives intertwine; only the youngest generation, of mixed blood, remains unaware of the role the past continues to play in their lives.

Evelina Harp is a witty, ambitious young girl, part Ojibwe, part white, who is prone to falling hopelessly in love. Mooshum, Evelina's grandfather, is a seductive storyteller, a repository of family and tribal history with an all-too-intimate knowledge of the violent past. Nobody understands the weight of historical injustice better than Judge Antone Bazil Coutts, a thoughtful mixed blood who witnesses the lives of those who appear before him, and whose own love life reflects the entire history of the territory. In distinct and winning voices, Erdrich's narrators unravel the stories of different generations and families in this corner of North Dakota. Bound by love, torn by history, the two communities' collective stories finally come together in a wrenching truth revealed in the novel's final pages.

The Plague of Doves is one of the major achievements of Louise Erdrich's considerable oeuvre, a quintessentially American story and the most complex and original of her books.

Chapter One

In the year 1896, my great-uncle, one of the first Catholic priests of aboriginal blood, put the call out to his parishioners that they should gather at Saint Joseph's wearing scapulars and holding missals. From that place they would proceed to walk the fields in a long, sweeping row, and with each step loudly pray away the doves. His human flock had taken up the plow and farmed among German and Norwegian settlers. Those people, unlike the French who mingled with my ancestors, took little interest in the women native to the land and did not intermarry. In fact, the Norwegians disregarded everybody but themselves and were quite clannish. But the doves ate their crops the same.

When the birds descended, both Indians and whites set up great bonfires and tried driving them into nets. The doves ate the wheat seedlings and the rye and started on the corn. They ate the sprouts of new flowers and the buds of apples and the tough leaves of oak trees and even last year'...

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Reviews

BookBrowse

As short story collections go, Plague of Doves is superb. As a novel, its lack of cohesion leaves something to be desired. If the reader approaches the narrative expecting short stories, they will not be disappointed, as this is easily one of the best compilations to be published in a long time. If, however, the reader is looking for a well-written novel, he or she may find it more satisfying to turn to one of Erdrich's earlier plot-driven works such as The Painted Drum or The Master Butcher's Singing Club.   (Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).

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Media Reviews
The New York Times Book Review - Bruce Barcott

[A]n often gorgeous, sometimes maddeningly opaque portrait of a community strangled by its own history...What Erdrich knows is that this history, built up over generations, yields a kind of claustrophobia that has only one cure: Leave.

Boston Globe

The stories told by [Erdrich’s] characters offer pleasures of language, of humor, of sheer narrative momentum, that shine even in the darkest moments of the book.

The New York Times - Michiko Kakutani

Her storytelling here is supple and assured, easily navigating the wavering line between a recognizable, psychological world and the more arcane world of legend and fable…arguably her most ambitious—and in many ways, her most deeply affecting—work yet.

San Francisco Chronicle

[Erdrich’s] accomplishment in these pages is Tolstoy-like: to render human particularity so meticulously and with such fierce passion as to convey the great, glittering movement of time.

O magazine

...Wholly felt and exquisitely rendered tales of memory and magic...an intricate tapestry that deeply satisfies the mind, the heart, and the spirit.

The Washington Post - Ron Charles

What marks these stories—some of which appeared in the New Yorker and the Atlantic—is what has always set Erdrich apart and made her work seem miraculous: the jostling of pathos and comedy, tragedy and slapstick in a peculiar dance.

Miami Herald

To read Louise Erdrich’s thunderous new novel is to leap headlong into the fiery imagination of a master storyteller...a rich, colorful mosaic of tales that twist and turn for decades...

Booklist

Starred Review. Mesmerizing… Erdrich ...communicate[s] the complexity and the mystery of human relationships.

School Library Journal

This work serves to bolster her body of work, and we are fortunate that such a gifted storyteller continues to focus her gaze on this region of the continent. Highly recommended.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. A multigenerational tour de force of sin, redemption, murder and vengeance

Kirkus Reviews

Guilt and redemption pepper these self-sufficient, intertwining stories,and readers who can keep track of the characters will find their efforts rewarded. The magic lies in the details of Erdrich's ever-replenishing mythology, whether of a lost stamp collection or a boy's salvation. A lush, multilayered book.

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The Metis & Louis Riel

Louis Riel
Many of the characters featured in The Plague of Doves are Metis.  The Metis (historically known as the Bois Brule) emerged in Canada in the mid-17th Century as New World fur traders intermarried with Cree, Ojibwe, Salteaux and Menominee natives. While mostly French, some of the traders were English and Scots. Over time, the offspring of these unions themselves interbred and had children of their own, creating one of three Aboriginal peoples recognized by the Canadian government.

The Metis homeland includes the Canadian provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba & Ontario, as well as parts of the United ...

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