For a deathly serious book Louise Erdrich’s The Round House is laugh out loud funny. It’s a page turner novel chronicling the reaction and adventures of a 13 year old boy after the brutal rape and near murder of his mother.
Young Joe and his three friends peddle their bikes around the Chippewa Reservation in North Dakota. Readers familiar with Erdrich’s previous novels my recognize a continuation in the lineages and stories but it is a stand-alone novel that sucks readers into the emotional life of a precocious young teenager and his rapid growth as he learns about love, loyalty, loss and injustice.
Despite the young protagonist this is not a book for young readers. Erdrich’s faces head on the brutality of the long history of Native American’s at the hands of the U.S. Government and the gruesome details of the impact of white supremacy in modern times. Joe’s father is a Tribal Judge and legal issues are woven through the story and shown in the context of people’s lives. Including the terrible jurisdictional loopholes that made it possible for women to be raped on tribal land and the tribe left with no power to prosecute.
I don’t want to spoil any of the humor of the story but, despite the grim nature of the plot line, it is a book filled with hope and life and hilarity. It’s well worth reading but be prepared to laugh and cry along the way.