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Saturday, September 14, 2013

Which "We" Are We Talking About?


The first book mentioned after I began blogging in March 2011 was "The Painted Drum" (2005) by Louise Erdrich. Though that novel marked my initial exposure to Erdrich, I knew I'd return. What author new to you has most recently grabbed you that way?

"Small trees had attacked my parents' house at the foundation."

With the first foreshadowing sentence, "The Round House" (2012) had me immediately. Then just three pages later comes this - "And so, you see, her absence stopped time." Before any "action" occurs, Erdrich's pitch-perfect tone propelled me forward. Only once, with the vigilante act concluding the penultimate chapter, did I temporarily fall out of the author's spell. But then Erdrich masterfully puts the moral universe back on its axis in the last chapter, especially her final three pages and concluding sentences.

"We passed over in a sweep of sorrow that would persist into our small forever. We just kept going."

Those last four words are nominally about the fictional Coutts family of this novel. But based on the harrowing legal legacy our Supreme Court has constructed since the early 19th century to abrogate the rights of Native Americans, the "we" in that sentence carries added weight. You'll need to read the book and let me know if you agree Erdrich had that legacy on her mind with both the first and last sentence of "The Round House".        

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