Sunday, March 2, 2014
The story is narrated by Joe, a thirteen-year-old boy and the setting is North Dakota and the Ojibwe Indian reservation.
Joe is with his father, tribal judge Bazil Coutts, when his mother fails to return home at dinner time. The two become worried at this change in Geraldine's behavior and begin a search. When they spot her on the road, racing home in her car, they follow. They learn that she has been raped and beaten. She doesn't want to discuss the attack and Bazil seems unable to help.
Later, as a judge, Bazil brings home some of his case files to see if he can determine who his wife's attacker might be. In this, we learn some of the dealings of the tribal nation and some dealings between Indians and whites. However, Joe sees a lack of progress in finding his mother's attacker. She has become a recluse and Joe wants his mother back, the way things were.
Joe overhears his father talking to an FBI agent and it seems as if there is difficulty in progress with a crime that took place on the reservation. Joe gets more support from his friends, Cappy, Zack and Angus. They decide to investigate. Their search brings them to the Round House, a special place for worship for tribal members.
There is good detail about Indian life and the difficulty in dealing with whites when seeking justice.
The prose is outstanding as is the character development. We get to know Joe and Cappy in particular and get a feel about what friendship means to them. The characters are unique and people who we really want to learn more about.
Joe becomes a man in the story, learning about life and in dealing with non-tribal people. There is also an element of spirituality as Joe deals with a priest to learn about justice and his dilemma in seeking revenge against the attacker. Joe's grandfather is an ancient man who relates things about Indian history to Joe, with a description of characters from Indian folk lore and what their stories mean.
As the author, Louise Erdrich, is a member of the Ojibwe Indian nation, it is as if she is telling the reader about her family and relating the stories she learned at the powwows she had attended.