LaRose is one of the most highly anticipated novels of the year—and rightly so. In Erdrich’s much lauded career she has won a National Book Award, a National Book Critics Circle Award and The Dayton Peace Prize. She has been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and won the PEN/Saul Bellow Award for achievement in American Fiction and the Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction.
LaRose sees this major American writer working at height of her powers. It completes an ambitious three-book meditation on the idea of justice. All three books (The Plague of Doves and The Round House are the other two) explore the lives of different generations of the same Ojibwe, white, and mixed families, living in fictional North Dakota landscape Erdrich has written about since her first novel, Love Medicine.
The NYT review of The Round House hit something true about all of Erdrich’s work — that “[b]y boring deeply into one person’s darkest episode, Erdrich hits the bedrock truth about a whole community.”
The storyline in LaRose is shocking and immediately draws one in. Claire Kirch did an interview with Erdrich for PW that really does the book justice. This brief section sets the story up:
The premise of LaRose began with a kernel of truth. In her acknowledgements, Erdrich thanks her mother for mentioning a story of parents on the reservation who were responsible for the death of a child and who subsequently allowed the victim’s family to adopt their own child. ‘That one germ of a story is all I can point to that really happened in this book,’ Erdrich explains. ‘I don’t know the people involved, I don’t know anything more about it. The rest is all imagination.’ The story evolved, she says, as she reflected on the impact that such a situation would have on the members of the families, especially the siblings of both children.
“‘What about the kids? What happens to them when something of this sort happens?’ Erdrich, who is the mother of four daughters, recalls asking herself. ‘How do people make their lives work—or not work—as this goes along?’
“Emphasizing how much she enjoyed writing about the relationship that develops between Dusty’s older sister, Maggie, and LaRose, Erdrich laughs as she insists that writing about the rebellious Maggie convinced her to persist in weaving a tale that moves backward and forward in time and place, with key scenes set in such places as an isolated Ojibwe trading post, a 19th-century sanitarium for tuberculosis patients overlooking the Mississippi River, a turn-of-the-century Pennsylvania boarding school, a 1970s-era downtown Minneapolis squatters’ encampment, and a small-town school gym during a fiercely waged girls’ volleyball game….”
— PW Interview, “A Child for a Child”
And here is Erdrich discussing the book herself:
You can expect pretty much every major review outlet to cover this. And Erdrich will be doing a lot of interviews, starting with a feature in the NYT and an interview on NPR’s All Things Considered.
“Erdrich spins a powerful, resonant story with masterly finesse. As in The Round House, she explores the quest for justice and the thirst for retribution. Again, the setting—a North Dakota Ojibwe reservation and a nearby town—adds complexity to the plot. Landreaux Iron, an Ojibwe man, accidentally shoots and kills the five-year-old son of his best friend, farmer Peter Ravich, who is not a member of the tribe. After a wrenching session with his Catholic priest, Father Travis, and a soul-searching prayer in a sweat lodge, Landreaux gives his own five-year-old son, LaRose, to grieving Peter and his wife, Nola, who is half-sister to Landreaux’s own wife, Emmaline. In the years that follow, LaRose becomes a bridge between his two families….Erdrich raises suspense by introducing another, related act of retribution, culminating in a memorable and satisfying ending.”
— Publishers Weekly (starred pick of the week)
“…[a] meditative, profoundly humane story…Electric, nimble, and perceptive, this novel is about ‘the phosphorous of grief’ but also, more essentially, about the emotions men need, but rarely get, from one another.”
— Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
The radiance of this many-faceted novel is generated by Erdrich’s tenderness for her characters.…[M]agnificent…a brilliantly imagined and constructed saga of empathy, elegy, spirituality, resilience, wit, wonder, and hope that will stand as a defining master work of American literature for generations to come.”
— Booklist (starred review)
“Erdrich is one of my very favorite novelists. Her characters are among the most complex I’ve ever met, and her newest novel only adds to the community of characters about whom I’ve come to care so deeply throughout her previous books. In LaRose, Erdrich returns to the ideas of justice and atonement with a cast of multifaceted characters who must navigate the meaning of family and community in the wake of tragedy. I look to Erdrich to deepen my sense that there is always more to a person and their motivations than meets the eye, and LaRose does not disappoint.
— Kelsey O’Rourke, Literati Bookstore, Ann Arbor, MI
LaRose (9780062277022) by Louise Erdrich. 27.99 hardcover. 5/10/16 one day laydown.