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.
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'...
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).
Full Review (998 words).
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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