The Round House

Feb 6th, 2014 | By | Category: 25-3: Preserving and Protecting Knowledge, Media Reviews

THE ROUND HOUSE LOUISE ERDRICHBy Louise Erdrich, read by Gary Farmer
Harper Audio (2013)
10 discs

Review by Ryan Winn

Perhaps the most inviting aspect of a Louise Erdrich (Turtle Mountain Chippewa) novel is that she begins each book by invoking a metaphor that is used continuously throughout her narrative. In the initial pages of the awardwinning novel, The Round House, thirteen-year-old narrator Joe Coutts and his middle-aged father attempt to remove weeds before they can crack the outer cement walls of the family home. Unbeknownst to the men, the weeds represent the ramifications of the horrific rape being inflicted upon Joe’s mother.

Erdrich’s writing is never preachy, but the novel employs this metaphor to invoke questions about the judicial rights of tribal courts and the frustrating limits of tribal sovereignty. Yet, the novel’s heart comes from the characters’ deep friendships, rich family ties, remarkable humor, and the repercussions of pursuing vengeance.

The Round House may be Erdrich’s finest work to date, but hearing her words spoken by Gary Farmer (Cayuga) makes a compelling case for the resonating power of a well-read story. Erdrich’s words pulse like a heartbeat, but Farmer’s voice gives them their own life force. To be clear, this is an audio book that roots into its listeners and makes them appreciate the rewards of catharsis.

Ryan Winn is the Humanities Department chair at College of Menominee Nation.

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