2018 Book #20 - The Round House, by Louise Erdrich

My mom lent me this book. She's always a good source for novels. This was perfect to read while she and I traveled around the Navajo Nation on our summer vacation together.

It's the story of a 12 year-old Native American boy—Ojibwe, in South Dakota—whose mother is violently assaulted, perhaps on the reservation, perhaps just outside of it. (It's important where it happened because of tribal jurisdiction.)

Although a crime is at the center of it, it is not a typical crime novel, certainly not a whodunit. It's really a coming-of-age story. The crime and its effect on his mother, father, and himself, brutally thrusts Joe into a frightening adult world where his father, who is a judge, cannot fix every problem, and the second-class citizenship of Native Americans has dark consequence. Historical injustices come alive in the living memory of grown-ups he sees now in a different light.

And yet he's still a kid, riding his bike, taking a peek at his uncle's girlfriend's boobs, sneaking cigarettes. The two worlds commingle uneasily, as they do for all of us in adolescence, but heightened by the terrible thing that has happened and the threat that is still present.

I don't want to hint at turns of events, but everything happens believably. It's a much more realistic evocation of crime and its aftermath than you will find in most crime novels.

Highly recommended.


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