2016 NBCC Award Winner

Louise Erdrich has won the 2016 NBCC award for her novel La Rose.  Erdrich has won the award once before in 1984 for her highly acclaimed novel Love Medicine.

La Rose by Louise Erdrich

“Louise Erdrich starts her latest novel LaRose with an incident larose-by-louise-erdrichother, less assured novelists might work up to with some throat clearing. On the second page, Landreaux Iron, a father of five, “all of whom he tried to feed and keep decent,” accidentally shoots his neighbor’s five-year-old son, Dusty, on the Native American reservation in rural North Dakota where they live. According to Native American custom as Landreaux sees it, he must give his own young son, LaRose, to the family whose son he has killed, “an old form of justice,” as Erdrich calls it. 

Erdrich has said in an interview that she doesn’t remember exactly when she heard about the actual event that inspired LaRose. “And of course the story was only two lines long: ‘A man killed a boy. The man gave up his son to be raised by the other family,’ ” Erdrich told Kirkus Reviews. “I never thought I’d write about it, but the story stayed with me, and when I did begin to write about it I knew exactly what was going to happen—for the first 20 pages, anyway. After that, I had quite a time figuring out what to do next.”

The novel is so sure-footed and preternaturally confident; Erdrich definitely figured it out along the way. Both families must shuffle through the emotional morass produced by the act of child-sharing (LaRose shuttles between the two homes and the wives of the two families are also half-sisters). Shy, inquisitive LaRose is “a little healer.” He is the fifth generation of LaRoses, who consults his ancestors and marshals profound bravery to right an injustice done to one of his new siblings. Erdrich chooses a few characters to focus on in addition to the members of the two families: drug-dependent Romeo who was abandoned by Landreaux years ago and a war vet named Father Travis, devout but also in love with someone he shouldn’t be in love with.”  (NBCC)

You can take a look at the 2016 NBCC Finalists for more reading inspiration.

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2016 NBCC Award Finalists

The National Book Critics Circle has announced the finalists for the 2016 awards.  They have awarded the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award to Margaret Atwood.  The NBCC awards will be presented on the 16th March in New York.  I’m going to share the finalists for the Fiction category here but follow the above link to see the finalists in the other categories.

Moonglow by Michael Chabon

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“In 1989, fresh from the publication of his first novel, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, Michael Chabon travelled to his mother’s home in Oakland, California to visit his terminally ill grandfather. Tongue loosened by powerful painkillers, memory stirred by the imminence of death, Chabon’s grandfather shared recollections and told stories the younger man had never heard before, uncovering bits and pieces of a history long buried and forgotten. That dreamlike week of revelations forms the basis for the novel Moonglow, the latest feat of legerdemain in the ongoing magic act that is the art of Michael Chabon.  Moonglow unfolds as the deathbed confession, made to his grandson, of a man the narrator refers to only as “my grandfather.” It is a tale of madness, of war and adventure, of sex and desire and ordinary love, of existential doubt and model rocketry, of the shining aspirations and demonic underpinnings of American technological accomplishment at mid-century and, above all, of the destructive impact—and the creative power—of the keeping of secrets and the telling of lies. A gripping, poignant, tragicomic, scrupulously researched and wholly imaginary transcript of a life that spanned the dark heart of the twentieth century, Moonglow is also a tour de force of speculative history in which Chabon attempts to reconstruct the mysterious origins and fate of Chabon Scientific, Co., an authentic mail-order novelty company whose ads for scale models of human skeletons, combustion engines and space rockets were once a fixture in the back pages of Esquire, Popular Mechanics, and Boy’s Life. Along the way Chabon devises and reveals, in bits and pieces whose hallucinatory intensity is matched only by their comic vigour and the radiant moonglow of his prose, a secret history of his own imagination.  From the Jewish slums of pre-war South Philadelphia to the invasion of Germany, from a Florida retirement village to the penal utopia of New York’s Wallkill Prison, from the heyday of the space program to the twilight of “the American Century,” Moonglow collapses an era into a single life and a lifetime into a single week. A lie that tells the truth, a work of fictional non-fiction, an autobiography wrapped in a novel disguised as a memoir, Moonglow is Chabon at his most daring, his most moving, his most Chabonesque.” (GoodReads)

LaRose by Louise Erdrich

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“North Dakota, late summer, 1999. Landreaux Iron stalks a deer along the edge of the property bordering his own. He shoots with easy confidence—but when the buck springs away, Landreaux realizes he’s hit something else, a blur he saw as he squeezed the trigger. When he staggers closer, he realizes he has killed his neighbour’s five-year-old son, Dusty Ravich.  The youngest child of his friend and neighbour, Peter Ravich, Dusty was best friends with Landreaux’s five-year-old son, LaRose. The two families have always been close, sharing food, clothing, and rides into town; their children played together despite going to different schools; and Landreaux’s wife, Emmaline, is half sister to Dusty’s mother, Nola. Horrified at what he’s done, the recovered alcoholic turns to an Ojibwe tribe tradition—the sweat lodge—for guidance, and finds a way forward. Following an ancient means of retribution, he and Emmaline will give LaRose to the grieving Peter and Nola. “Our son will be your son now,” they tell them.  LaRose is quickly absorbed into his new family. Plagued by thoughts of suicide, Nola dotes on him, keeping her darkness at bay. His fierce, rebellious new “sister,” Maggie, welcomes him as a co conspirator who can ease her volatile mother’s terrifying moods. Gradually he’s allowed shared visits with his birth family, whose sorrow mirrors the Raviches’ own. As the years pass, LaRose becomes the linchpin linking the Irons and the Raviches, and eventually their mutual pain begins to heal.  But when a vengeful man with a long-standing grudge against Landreaux begins raising trouble, hurling accusations of a cover-up the day Dusty died, he threatens the tenuous peace that has kept these two fragile families whole.”  (GoodReads)

Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett

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“When Margaret’s fiancé, John, is hospitalized for depression in 1960s London, she faces a choice: carry on with their plans despite what she now knows of his condition, or back away from the suffering it may bring her. She decides to marry him. Imagine Me Gone is the unforgettable story of what unfolds from this act of love and faith. At the heart of it is their eldest son, Michael, a brilliant, anxious music fanatic who makes sense of the world through parody. Over the span of decades, his younger siblings–the savvy and responsible Celia and the ambitious and tightly controlled Alec–struggle along with their mother to care for Michael’s increasingly troubled and precarious existence.” (GoodReads)

Continue reading 2016 NBCC Award Finalists

TBR Chronicles #05

Last month (May) was a slow month for my TBR so I decided to wait until I had a post-worthy amount of books to talk about.  Over the years of writing this blog I’ve noticed that come mid-year my reading verve dies down a bit.  I have no idea why this happens but it’s a time when I tend to read slower than the rest of the year.  I’m in the southern hemisphere so it might have something to do with it being Winter.

On PhotographyI’ve been thinking a lot about photography recently.  More specifically about the theory side of it.  One of the books I featured on my A Photographer’s Theory Reading List post was On Photography by Susan Sontag.  A few people have mentioned this book really changed their perspective of the art of photography so this one makes the TBR list. (GoodReads)

I’ve read a couple of Louise Erdrich‘s novels and The Plague of Doves is next for me.  It is about the same family featured in The The Plague of DovesRound House which I enjoyed so I’m keen to revisit them.  I expect to enjoy this book as I have the others. (GoodReads)

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop TalkingQuiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain has been on my TBR for a while.  I consider myself quite introverted and so was drawn to the book.  I find the world can be a little too noisy for my liking sometimes so I’m intrigued as to what the book has to say. (GoodReads)

Juno Diaz has been on my radar for a while but I always seem to forget I want to read The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Waosomething by him when I’m picking my next read.  I read an excerpt recently from The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao and found the writing so beautiful that I knew this would be the one. (GoodReads)

Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the WorldLast but not least is Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami.  Murakami is another author I’ve been dying to get into but I couldn’t figure out where best to start.  This post on Book Oblivion helped me decide to go with this one because it was recommended as the first one of his books dealing with the unconscious  to start off with.  (GoodReads)

Have you read any of these?  What did you think? Any other similar recommendations?

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Review: Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich

Love Medicine is Louise Erdrich’s first novel published in 1984.  It won her the National Book Critics Circle Award that same year.  The novel is highly acclaimed and features on a number of prominent university’s literature reading lists.

Love MedicineHere is the blurb from GoodReads:

“The stunning first novel in Louise Erdrich’s Native American series, Love Medicine tells the story of two families, the Kashpaws and the Lamartines. Written in Erdrich’s uniquely poetic, powerful style, it is a multi-generational portrait of strong men and women caught in an unforgettable drama of anger, desire, and the healing power that is love medicine.”

Love Medicine is the first in a Native American series followed by The Beet Queen, Tracks, and The Bingo Palace.

Erdrich has a way of taking ordinary lives and their dramas and revealing what is special about the people in her stories.  Essentially, she shows us that everyone is special no matter how ordinary we feel and no matter how many people have been through what we have been through.  I have always believed that all people and thus their life experiences are unique but Erdrich has made filling a novel with what many people go through an art.  She has a way of connecting all these people’s stories in such an insightful way.  She shows human truths through her writing about ‘normality’.

Of added interest to me is life on the reservation, the Indian families that live there, and their interactions with white America.  I love this element in her novels.  I liked the inclusion of the powers of knowing of the Nanapush family and Marie Kashpaw.  A huge part of why I loved this book was how she told it.  She had each chapter as a perspective of events from a different character from the various families.  They were from different generations (as this story spans some 60 years) and different parts of the families which at the end of the book you realise are all interconnected – one big family.  Each character had not only a different emotional perspective of events but different knowledge of those events.  And so we get to know their stories and the people just as you would as a family member; from different family members over time revealing the greater story in pieces.

It goes without saying that Erdrich’s writing is beautiful – poetic – an absolute pleasure to read.  I’ve read two of her novels now and both have left me feeling like she dropped a bunch of pearls of wisdom and yet I’m not sure that I caught sight of them all.  It is rare that I finish a novel feeling like I will have to read it again but this is one that I’ll have to go back over.  I highly recommend this novel!

 

lilolia review rating 4 stars great

 

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

 

2012 National Book Award Winner

The 2012 National Book Award for Fiction was awarded to:

Louise Erdrich’s The Round House

The Round House, named Book of the Year by Amazon, is set on a Native American reservation for the Ojibwe people in North Dakota in 1988 and follows the investigations of 13 year old Joe as he seeks the truth surrounding the assault of his mother.

“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 to 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.” (Goodreads)

Louise Erdrich, born 1954 in Little Falls, Minnesota, grew up in Wahpeton, North Dakota, accepted the award in both Ojibwe and English and spoke of “the grace and endurance of native women”.  She went on to say that “this is a book about a huge case of injustice ongoing on reservations. Thank you for giving it a wider audience”. (Louise Erdrich wins National Book award for fiction 2012)

For more about Louise Erdrich and her novels visit Goodreads.

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