Erdrich uses a succession of first-person narrators that dovetail with each other beautifully, à la William Faulkner's The Hamlet. The Indians are then summarily lynched by white vigilantes. Erdrich then shows us how for the next 75 years or so that violent history affects both whites and Indians -- and those of mixed blood like Erdrich herself -- living in Pluto, North Dakota, and the nearby reservation.
How these events came to be and the ongoing impact of time and transformation define this book. This book needs a family tree illustration to help the reader keep track of the characters. It is almost as if Erdrich had collected short stories and used a central core of blood relations to unite them. In fact, the acknowledgements section notes several magazines and short story collections in which parts of the book had previously appeared, lending support to that notion. I still do not know if the book was intended originally as a novel or pieced together from short stories. It is a rewarding journey with stories that grab and hold on, sometimes magical language, and memorable characters.
She spoke of the hatred she faced every single day as a Muslim woman. She spoke of the way her faith taught her to love. The small world around them is left fractured for generations under the weight of seven honest people gone too soon; the town of Pluto and the nearby reservation must both find a way to heal from the acts of evil they've been exposed to. Early on, Erdrich forgets her concern for hatred and turns the attention of the novel to the slow-forming, fragile bonds the two communities create as a form of healing. But neither will any sort of large scale American recovery if we use his evil to silence people like the woman who spoke at the vigil.
Can I keep giving all the books I read this year four or five stars? And I am too busy reading 4 and 5-star books to pay much attention or care. REVIEW: The Plague of Doves reads like a connected set of short stories, which (as I found out in the end notes) is what it started out as. 28) The entire exchange between Joseph & Evelina's father and Mooshum, starting with: "'Is your sister fond of flowers? 35) Spirituality is treated with the complexity it deserves, e.g. the incredibly touching scenes between Evelina and Sister Mary Anita, and the way she describes how Shamengwa and Mooshum goad Father Cassidy. 203) Music and stories; magic and madness; brutality and guilt and, most of all, love: "Her face, and my father's face, were naked with love. I think now that everything that was concentrated in that one look--their care in raising me, their patient lessons in every subject they knew to teach, their wincing efforts to give me freedoms, their example of fortitude in work--allowed me to survive myself." (Evelina, p. 222) The entire Evelina section, from her Anais Nin obsession to her bad poetry to her descent into her own hell and rise out of it, stands alone and shines, shines, shines with pain and longing; growth and survival -- even triumph.
i'm going slowly, because a) the writing is too beautiful to hurry; b) the story is too intense to hurry; and, less fancifully, c) i need a solid plot-directed narrative to keep me going these days, and this book doesn't have one, so i am reading when the need for aforementioned is not too pressing. this novel goes back and forth in time and space, focusing on a host of characters of mixed indian-white ethnicity in some state up north (i can't tell them apart in real life so i read their names fast and don't retain them in my memory -- minnesota? at the same time, there is a clear vision keeping it all together, as if erdrich had imagined one of those bruegel paintings then decided to tell us what's behind it, one character at a time, with all the time in the world to go back and tell the story from the beginning, properly.
I couldn't read this in one sitting, so I was finding myself having a hard time keeping all of the different threads and families straight.
And why let Judge Coutts tell that story in flashback? She's employing her usual style of multiple first-person narrators, which is familiar and comfortable and usually very effective, but the characters themselves seem to me to be lacking in strength of voice, and their stories leave ends dangling all over the place, with too few and too tenuous connections to form a coherent whole. I just looked and Tracks is only 224 pages long. She could have cut 100 pages of Doves and had a much better and more coherent novel. The big reveal at the end, with Baby Doc healing her family's murderer, feels like she was desperate for a name for the killer and went paging back until she found one not too obvious, and then beefed up his part ("...my Uncle Warren, who would stare and stare at you like he was watching your blood move and your food digest. It's a nice thought.) Erdrich says in back that "The book revolves or spins off of a lynching of Native Americans..." which is a terrific idea, but she doesn't keep the focus of the narrative on it. Erdrich says, "...by the end, people are so intertwined and intermixed that one of the descendants of both the lynchers and the victim says, "There's no unraveling the rope.
The relationship with Faulkner is immediately noticeable: just like the Nobel Laureate, all her books are set in a very limited geographical area in the United States; in her case in North Dakota, with its many Indian (I think I should say Native American) reservates and a very mixed population; Erdrich herself is of Indian-German-French origin. The style of Erdrich reminded me very much of Toni Morrison, especially when she went on the magical-realistic tour at some moments and also because of the very deeply human way in which the different actors tell their own story.
I'd like to see someone of her caliber write a more carefully constructed book, eliminating the extraneous pieces that doesn't add to the story.
Karen Louise Erdrich is a American author of novels, poetry, and children's books. From a book description: Author Biography: Louise Erdrich is one of the most gifted, prolific, and challenging of contemporary Native American novelists. She and Michael became a picture-book husband-and-wife writing team, though they wrote only one truly collaborative novel, The Crown of Columbus (1991). The Antelope Wife was published in 1998, not long after her separation from Michael and his subsequent suicide.