Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Plague of Doves by Louise Erdrich

The Plague of Doves by Louise Erdrich
Published April 2008 by HarperCollins Publishers
Source: I bought this one on audio at my local library sale

Publisher's Summary:
The unsolved murder of a farm family still haunts the white small town of Pluto, North Dakota, generations after the vengeance exacted and the distortions of fact transformed the lives of Ojibwe living on the nearby reservation.

Part Ojibwe, part white, Evelina Harp is an ambitious young girl prone to falling hopelessly in love. Mooshum, Evelina's grandfather, is a repository of family and tribal history with an all-too-intimate knowledge of the violent past. And Judge Antone Bazil Coutts, who bears witness, understands the weight of historical injustice better than anyone. Through the distinct and winning voices of three unforgettable narrators, the collective stories of two interwoven communities ultimately come together to reveal a final wrenching truth.  

My Thoughts: 
Here's what I thought I was going to get: a story about the impact of these murders on these three people years after the murders occurred.

Here's what I got: a series of stories about the descendants of the people involved in these murders and their aftermath from many narrators. The characters in the stories are interconnected but in some stories only one character readers have previously met will appear, sometimes more. The problem was that I was not nearly as connected to some characters as I was to others and lost interest more than once as the stories of some of these characters seemed to drag on too long.

The book plays out as something of a jigsaw puzzle, gradually revealing how the lives of the descendants have interwoven over the decades, and I enjoyed watching this play out. I have read almost nothing about the experience of the Native American and Erdrich certainly made me think about the ways in which their lives were forever altered when Europeans decided to take their land. When asked about his past, Mooshum replies:

“What you are asking is how was it stolen? How has this great thievery become acceptable? How do we live right here beside you, knowing what we lost and how you took it?” 

The New York Times called this book, in 2008, masterful. Of course, that makes me feel like I missed something. Was something lost to me by listening to this one instead of reading it? I don't think so as far as the reading was concerned; the narration was fine. Perhaps in just not being able to fully immerse myself I lost something. Have you read this one? What did you think of it?


  1. She always receives wonderful reviews and I feel just like you...what did I miss? I have decided to just go ahead and give myself permission to not try to read any more of her books.

  2. Hmm. I think I would have expected what you expected going in--and then been really disappointed at the outcome. It does sound interesting though--and I'm glad I know what to expect now if I do read it. I think that will help my enjoyment of it if I do read it.

  3. I actually listened to this one several years ago, and recall that I liked it. Can't remember too much about it now though:(

  4. I just finished The Roundhouse by Louise Ehrlich. My feeling was...meh. There was a lot of non-relevant storytelling mixed in with the story itself, which was annoying to me. Was this book like that, too? (Is that her style?)

  5. I have read Erdrich before, and no, I don't think you were missing something. Her books are powerful, but often she tackles the same subject more than once, from different angles, so maybe this one just lost it's potency. Honestly, I would not want to read this one, because your expectations of what this one would be about were the same as mine, and I don't really care to read about how the descendants reacted to the murders. I would have liked to read how the more immediate family reacted. Very eye-opening review today. I must admit this author is not my favorite, but I will read her again sometime. Just not this one :)

  6. Hmm, I've had this on my shelf for several years now. You've made me even more curious... and a little more intimidated, too.