The Round House

  • by Louise Erdrich
  • Narrated by Gary Farmer
  • 12 hrs and 39 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

National Book Award, Fiction, 2012
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 13-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.
Written with undeniable urgency, and illuminating the harsh realities of contemporary life in a community where Ojibwe and white live uneasily together, The Round House is a brilliant and entertaining novel, a masterpiece of literary fiction. Louise Erdrich embraces tragedy, the comic, a spirit world very much present in the lives of her all-too-human characters, and a tale of injustice that is, unfortunately, an authentic reflection of what happens in our own world today.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Heavy in My Heart

This book has been heavy in my head. Had I written a knee-jerk review 3 days ago from that thick head, I would have misinformed you. I hadn't synthesized the weight of all that is between the words: the legend and mythology that give eloquence to the silly ramblings of an old sleeping man; the traditions that guided the daily activities of the Native American characters; the history of duplicity that corralled a people into reservations and snuffed out their cultural identity. Heavy in my head because this book is structured so beautifully that much of it speaks to us from the spaces between the words--a language we grasp in our core consciousness. Now translated...the story is heavy in my heart.

The *Heads I win, Tails you lose* treaties that made a story like this possible, (virtually creating a Free Rape Zone) are in the words of this story's narrator, "a gut kick," that compounds an already tragic event. The characters are vividly written and fondly familiar as a family member or good neighbor. Especially compelling is the young Joe. (The story is recalled by an older Joe.) The violent hate crime perpetrated against his mother skins him of his innocence and naivete, catapulting him prematurely into a foreign adult world. His group of friends, their teenage rites of passages and proclivities, tentatively anchor him to his youthful life, and reminded me of the group of friends in Stand By Me (The Body).

There are many themes in this intricate and tense novel, some rooted generations deep. (Reading Native American literature sometimes makes me feel like a person with the same surname as a horrendous criminal must feel each time the name is broadcast.) Erdrich writing is stunning - almost painfully beautiful as she combines the contrasting elements that make up this profound story. I would say more profound, because of her craftsmanship, than *depresssing*...one of the words in reviews that kept me from listening before...

I have considered this book since it was published and passed for different reasons. The asides, or the stories told by the elders of the tribes, may seem like irrelevant ramblings, humorous or raunchy stories. Look passed the old Mooshum's dream-talking, and the aunts and grandmothers intent on embarassing the young boys with their youthful recollections--these stories are crucial to the heart of this story--they are the history, the scripture, the culture ties, the logic, and cleverly placed by Erdrich to keep the suspense in the forefront while adding perspective. Addressing the narrator: Gary Farmer is a Native American that has many acting credits and obviously has experience with script. His reading hit me as authentic rather than disruptive and added a necessary discomfort to the rhythm of words--because they should be a little uncomfortable in this context, and the story should sit heavy in our hearts.

I read that this novel is the middle of a trilogy (the first volume being Plague of Doves). I love finding an author that is new to me and I can't wait to read everything Erdrich has written. Very deserving of the the National Book Award.
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- Mel

An amazing story by a compelling storyteller

Don't give up on the narrator--the story itself is well worth listening to, and the narration improves slowly as the story builds, especially in the second half. I found the book to be excellent, the storyline exciting and fascinating, and the characters well-drawn. The story is told through the eyes of a 13-year-old native American boy, which is quite a feat for a 58-year-old woman writer, and she pulls it off beautifully. The narrator is apparently an American Indian actor, but he is so unskilled at narrating that I almost gave up on the book at first. He does the strangest things with sentences, often coming full-stop after the verb, and seeming to start a new sentence (as in, "He laid his bike against the fence. Before he went into the woods.") His inflection is all over the map, oftentimes obscuring the meaning of the words he's reading. (Didn't he practice ahead of time, one wonders?) As the story builds in intensity, however, the narrator seems to fall into a more normal inflection pattern, and contributes to the excitement of the story instead of detracting from it, as he does in the first half of the book. In any case, the story is so compelling that I stuck with it, and was so glad I did...even gasping and weeping a few times. Thank you, Louise Erdrich.
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- barbara

Book Details

  • Release Date: 10-02-2012
  • Publisher: HarperAudio