Tuesday, April 29, 2008

New Louise Erdrich book depicts several generations of rural North Dakota

The New York Times has given Louise Erdrich's new book, "The Plague of Doves" a stunning review. Like much of her earlier work, it involves the Ojibwe tribe and is set in a small white settlement on the edge of the Ojibwe reservation in North Dakota. At the story's center is a horrifying act: the hanging of three Ojibwe men and a boy in retaliation for the murder of a white family at the turn of the 20th century. The actual killer goes free. The novel follows the succeeding generations, as well as the fictional town of Pluto which, "gradually metamorphosed from a thriving little frontier community into a dying village, its businesses folding or moving away, while its young people leave for brighter horizons."

For the ruralists among us, this passage from Michiko Kakutani's review is also particularly enticing:
Pluto, like the town of Argus depicted in many earlier Erdrich novels, is one of those little towns where everyone knows everyone else and knows virtually everything about everyone else’s family history. It’s a place where intimacy breeds feuds and gossip and long-simmering resentments, but also understanding and maybe even forgiveness, a place where the roots of neighbors’ family trees are often mysteriously twisted together, and where the younger generations find themselves reprising — or expiating — the actions of their elders.
I've enjoyed a number of Erdrich novels over the years and will certainly put this on my summer reading list. To read Kakutani's review is to be convinced that it must be Erdrich's best yet.

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