Summary and book reviews of The Round House by Louise Erdrich

The Round House

A Novel

By Louise Erdrich

The Round House
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  • Hardcover: Oct 2012,
    336 pages.
    Paperback: Sep 2013,
    336 pages.

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Book Reviewed by:
Karen Rigby

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Book Summary

One of the most revered novelists of our time - a brilliant chronicler of Native-American life - Louise Erdrich returns to the territory of her bestselling, Pulitzer Prize finalist The Plague of Doves with The Round House, transporting readers to the Ojibwe reservation in North Dakota. It is an exquisitely told story of a boy on the cusp of manhood who seeks justice and understanding in the wake of a terrible crime that upends and forever transforms his family.

Riveting and suspenseful, arguably the most accessible novel to date from the creator of Love Medicine, The Beet Queen, and The Bingo Palace, Erdrich’s The Round House is a page-turning masterpiece of literary fiction - at once a powerful coming-of-age story, a mystery, and a tender, moving novel of family, history, and culture.

Chapter One
1988

Small trees had attacked my parents’ house at the foundation. They were just seedlings with one or two rigid, healthy leaves. Nevertheless, the stalky shoots had managed to squeeze through knife cracks in the decorative brown shingles covering the cement blocks. They had grown into the unseen wall and it was difficult to pry them loose. My father wiped his palm across his forehead and damned their toughness. I was using a rusted old dandelion fork with a splintered handle; he wielded a long, slim iron fireplace poker that was probably doing more harm than good. As my father prodded away blindly at the places where he sensed roots might have penetrated, he was surely making convenient holes in the mortar for next year’s seedlings.

Whenever I succeeded in working loose a tiny tree, I placed it like a trophy beside me on the narrow sidewalk that surrounded the house. There were ash shoots, elm, maple, box elder, even a good-sized catalpa, which my father...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. The Round House opens with the sentence: "Small trees had attacked my parents' house at the foundation." How do these words relate to the complete story that unfolds?
  2. Though he is older as he narrates the story, Joe is just thirteen when the novel opens. What is the significance of his age? How does that impact the events that occur and his actions and reactions?
  3. Describe Joe's family, and his relationship with his parents. In talking about his parents, Joe says, "I saw myself as different, though I didn't know how yet." Why, at thirteen, did he think this? Do you think the grown-up Joe narrating the story still believes this?
  4. Joe's whole family is rocked by the attack on his mother. How does it affect the relationship...
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    National Book Awards
    2012

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    Indie Booksellers’ Choice Awards
    2013

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Reviews

BookBrowse

Erdrich holds back little when it comes to seeking emotional resolution for her characters; her novel offers the daring justice that real life seldom affords. Readers intrigued by literature on adolescents coping amid violence will find a striking entry that inspires conversation.   (Reviewed by Karen Rigby).

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Media Reviews
Library Journal

Erdrich skillfully makes Joe's coming-of-age both universal and specific. Recommended.

Kirkus Reviews

This second novel in a planned trilogy lacks the breadth and richness of Erdrich at her best, but middling Erdrich is still pretty great.

Publisher's Weekly

Starred Review. The story pulses with urgency as she [Erdrich] probes the moral and legal ramifications of a terrible act of violence.

Booklist

Starred Review. A stunning and devastating tale of hate crimes and vengeance…Erdrich covers a vast spectrum of history, cruel loss, and bracing realizations. A preeminent tale in an essential American saga.

Reader Reviews
Diane S.

The Round House
This story could be read for so many different themes, coming of age story, Indian culture, family, crimes and many more but no matter why one is reading this the story is compelling. Erdrich has a knack of telling stories, with vivid descriptions ...   Read More

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The Ojibwe

Known as the Chippewa; Ojibway; Ojibwa; and in their own words, the Anishinabe, (meaning "original man" and alluding to a creation story); the Ojibwe are thought to have migrated from the northeast (perhaps from the mouth of the St. Lawrence River, according to late nineteenth-century history). They then settled in Southern Canada as well as the Great Lakes region of the United States. ClansThey organized by clans, often named after birds, animals, or fish, and maintained a woodlands lifestyle, including fishing, trapping, gathering wild rice, and maple sugaring. Excellent hunters, the Ojibwe prospered during the French fur trade, began acquiring weapons, and became one of the most powerful Native American groups. Ojibwe in the plains regions ...

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