Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Round House by Louise Erdrich

The Round House by Louise Erdrich

Joe is a 13 year old native boy who lives on a North Dakota reservation with his mother and father.  His father, Bazil, is a tribal judge and his mother, Geraldine, works for the reservation, registering Indians new to the tribe.  One day, a day like any other, Joe's mother gets a call and leaves to retrieve a file.  She is late returning home and so Joe and his father go looking for her.  They find her on the road, driving home.  They return home to find her sitting in her car, her hands rigid on the steering wheel and shaking.  When they open the car door, they see blood and vomit and they know immediately that they must get her to the hospital quickly.

Joe's world has been turned upside down.  His mother has been irrevocably wounded and she retreats into the sanctuary of her bedroom leaving Joe to deal with his anger and emotions on his own.  He has so many questions and desperately wants to help his mother and have his life go back to normal, the way it was before the crime was committed.  He remembers his mother smelled of gasoline when they found her in the car, Why?  He listens, he asks questions and then Joe and his three closest friends begin to piece together the crime.  They figure out the crime was committed at the Round House near the lake.  They find clues left behind by investigators and make plans to find out where exactly the crime took place.  Joe is going to make sure the man responsible for hurting his mother pays for his crime.

Life on a Indian reservation in North Dakota is hard and made harder by the fact that criminals who commit a crime on reservation land will likely walk away without being punished for the crime.  According to an news article by the Atlantic written by SIERRA CRANE-MURDOCH on FEB 22 2013, it states;
"In 1978, the Supreme Court case Oliphant v. Suquamish stripped tribes of the right to arrest and prosecute non-Indians who commit crimes on Indian land. If both victim and perpetrator are non-Indian, a county or state officer must make the arrest. If the perpetrator is non-Indian and the victim an enrolled member, only a federally certified agent has that right. If the opposite is true, a tribal officer can make the arrest, but the case still goes to federal court."
It is a jurisdiction nightmare and Louise Erdrich does an excellent job of communicating what this means to a victim and a victims family on the rez.  WOW.  Erdrich and her book The Round House deserve the National Book Award and my hope is that many people read this book and put pressure on Washington to give the Indian Nations the power to prosecute non-Indians who commit a crime
on reservation lands.  To think that perpetrators of crimes like rape and murder go free is horribly upsetting and just plain WRONG.
You can read the article from the Atlantic here:

Louise Erdrich is one of my favorite authors and reading her books are like coming home for a family reunion and visiting with long lost relatives.  Erdrich is an excellent storyteller and weaves an intricate spider web of interwoven stories that connects through layers of time and place.  Erdrich always teaches me something and I look forward to each new book that she writes as I know it will add the story of the characters I have grown to love throughout time.  The fiction works of Louise Erdrich all center around a reservation in North Dakota and the characters are a part of a family and sometimes the characters from past novels find their way into the current novel.  You never know what relative will visit or drop by to add to the story.  I love it.  All the novels are connected yet you can read them in any order because each book is its own unique and well written entity.

The Round House is fast becoming one of my favorite books of the year as Erdrich's characters have stolen my heart.  The Round House is a powerful novel full of tragedy and comedy and life's most meaningful lessons.  Erdrich has written another memorable story with characters that will live on in your memory for a long time to come.