“Take a Peek” book reviews are short and (possibly) sweet, keeping the commentary brief and providing a little peek at what the book’s about and what I thought.
In this literary masterwork, Louise Erdrich, the bestselling 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 Native American culture.
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 friend and neighbor, Peter 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 an Ojibwe tribe 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 long-standing 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.
A beautiful, complicated, stunning book by the masterful Louise Erdrich! What a powerful follow-up to her award-winning The Round House (review).
LaRose is a story about family, loss, retribution, and atonement. It shows the complex connections between parents and children, and the unusual ways in which new families can be formed and held together. LaRose also demonstrates the power of old wounds, never fully healed, to affect people’s actions and emotions years after the fact.
The author weaves in the story of earlier generations in the family, each with its own LaRose, showing the challenges of growing up in the reservation and boarding school systems, and the lasting impact of tradition on people being forced to assimilate.
The characters in LaRose are well-drawn and unforgettable. There’s Landreaux’s family, with his smart, loving daughters who take in Maggie and declare her their sister too. And there’s LaRose himself, a good, loving boy who is put in an impossible situation — and, impossibly, grows, thrives, and gives his two families what they need, while also forging his own strong connection to the spirit world. Myriad other characters flesh out the community and give life to the ties that bind the various characters together.
LaRose is unusual and beautifully written. Highly recommended.
Author: Louise Erdrich
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Publication date: May 10, 2016
Length: 400 pages
Genre: Contemporary fiction