Review: The Round House by Louise Erdrich

I have wanted to read The Round House since it won the National Book Award last year (2012) and all in all the story was good but I think I expected more.

“One Sunday in the spring of 1988, a woman living on a reservation in North Dakota is attacked. The details of the crime are slow The Round Houseto surface as Geraldine Coutts is traumatized and reluctant to relive or reveal what happened, either to the police or to her husband, Bazil, and thirteen-year-old son, Joe. In one day, Joe’s life is irrevocably transformed. He tries to heal his mother, but she will not leave her bed and slips into an abyss of solitude. Increasingly alone, Joe finds himself thrust prematurely into an adult world for which he is ill prepared.  While his father, who is a tribal judge, endeavors to wrest justice from a situation that defies his efforts, Joe becomes frustrated with the official investigation and sets out with his trusted friends, Cappy, Zack, and Angus, to get some answers of his own. Their quest takes them first to the Round House, a sacred space and place of worship for the Ojibwe. And this is only the beginning.”  (read more on GoodReads)

The good: I wasn’t sure if I was going to enjoy the novel being told from the perspective of a 13 year old boy (Joe) but I did. Joe is a good character and the writing is very good so he is easily followed throughout the story and he comes across mature for his age. I really enjoyed the setting of this novel – an Indian Reservation. I enjoyed the daily life on the reservation, the snippets of history and culture, the characters and their interrelations. I like to be taken away to somewhere new where the people are different. Parts that stood out for me were the powwow event and the story Mooshum told in his sleep. (I won’t elaborate so there won’t be any spoilers here) I was also intrigued by the land issue which featured prominently in the book – the issue of jurisdiction, whether state or Indian, in certain areas and the implications as well as complications of it. There were definitely some thought provoking moments.

The not-so-good: Despite all the lovely character and culture embellishments, in my mind this novel is about a crime and I continued reading to get to solving the crime and this is where I felt a bit let down. It took its time to get from one lead to the next, to get from one piece of information to the next. It needed to have gone a bit faster for me to have really enjoyed this book. There was one moment about 80 pages in where I wondered if I should stop reading the book.
Press on though unless you are really not enjoying the book as it does have a good ending. In the end I was happy to have read it. It was an easy read. I reckon I was expecting a lot more though based on what others had said about it. If it piques your interest I’d say read it, if it not…don’t feel obliged.


lilolia review rating 3 stars good



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