LaRose by Louise Erdrich
“In this literary masterwork, the author of the National Book Award-winning The Round House and the Pulitzer Prize nominee The Plague of Doves wields her breathtaking narrative magic in an emotionally haunting contemporary tale of a tragic accident, a demand for justice, and a profound act of atonement with ancient roots in indigenous culture.” –from Goodreads
Author: Louise Erdrich
Publish Date: May 10th 2016 by Harper
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Narrator: Louise Erdrich
Source: Purchased in audio
Publisher’s Description: North Dakota, late summer, 1999. Landreaux Iron stalks a deer along the edge of the property bordering his own. He shoots with easy confidence—but when the buck springs away, Landreaux realizes he’s hit something else, a blur he saw as he squeezed the trigger. When he staggers closer, he realizes he has killed his neighbor’s five-year-old son, Dusty Ravich.
The youngest child of his best friend, Pete Ravich, Dusty was best friends with Landreaux’s five-year-old son, LaRose. The two families have always been close, sharing food, clothing, and rides into town; their children played together despite going to different schools, and Landreaux’s wife, Emmaline, is half sister to Dusty’s mother, Nola. Horrified at what he’s done, the recovered alcoholic turns to tradition—the sweat lodge—for guidance, and finds a way forward. Following an ancient means of retribution, he and Emmaline will give LaRose to the grieving Peter and Nola. “Our son will be your son now,” they tell them.
LaRose is quickly absorbed into his new family. Plagued by thoughts of suicide, Nola dotes on him, keeping her darkness at bay. His fierce, rebellious new “sister” Maggie welcomes him as a co-conspirator who can ease her volatile mother’s terrifying moods. Gradually he’s allowed shared visits with his birth family, whose sorrow mirrors the Raviches’ own. As the years pass, LaRose becomes the linchpin linking the Irons and the Raviches, and eventually their mutual pain begins to heal.
But when a vengeful man with a longstanding grudge against Landreaux begins raising trouble, hurling accusations of a cover-up the day Dusty died, he threatens the tenuous peace that has kept these two fragile families whole.
Inspiring and affecting, LaRose is a powerful exploration of loss, justice, and the reparation of the human heart, and an unforgettable, dazzling tour de force from one of America’s most distinguished literary masters.
Possible spoilers beyond this point.
Agent Annie says…
This is definitely not one of Erdrich’s better books. It is still filled with many stories and complex characters, but I didn’t feel that she wove the past and the present together strongly. I enjoyed learning the history with the chapters of the early years with Native Americans being forced to attend boarding school, but the ramifications of those years weren’t really brought to full light in this story. I liked the imagery of the first LaRose being pursued by a bodiless head and then the 2 boys, Romeo and Landreaux thinking they had been caught after they ran away because they saw the head of their school headmistress. When I was listening to it, I thought for sure there would be more imagery or something that would make these heads significant. That wasn’t the case.
I also don’t feel that I was that engaged with any of the characters. The author chose to move between several as first person voice, but in this case, I think it made it difficult to really bond with a specific character. I also thought the relationship between Emmaline and Father Travis came out of nowhere. Father Travis’ passion was brought forth throughout the story, but Emmaline reciprocating felt too abrupt.
The main character, LaRose, was supposed to have been the 5th of a line of healers and other than the fact his father gave him away to make up for killing Dusty, I didn’t see how LaRose actually did any healing that was special. Perhaps that’s the point in the story is that the day to day lives of Native Americans are not really that different or extraordinary than the rest of us, but it is the small things and the continuity from one generation to the next that makes everyone special, but I had to really stretch to understand that might have been the point.
I did enjoy the author’s narration. She was able to catch the cadence of a Native American’s voice and fluidly went from the first person to narrator which can be difficult. I give this book a 3 since I have read others by Louise Erdrich that are far better.