The Plague of Doves by Louise Erdrich

Plague of DovesOnly when Louise Erdrich won this year’s National Book Award for The Round House, did I learn that House is the middle of a planned trilogy that begins with The Plague of Doves which, most serendipitously, was already loaded on my iPod. A bit of real magic, no? [If you, too, should choose the audible route (highly recommended), Plague‘s four multi-generational narrators are resonatingly voiced by Kathleen McInerney and Peter Francis James.]

Plague, a 2009 Pulitzer finalist (Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge won that year), opens with the brutal murder of almost an entire family (a baby survives), is haunted throughout by the “rough justice,” wrongful round-up and hanging of innocent Indian men who are accused of the crime, and closes with the inevitable oncoming death of a troubled small town. But in between such tragedies and endings are the complicated, vibrant, interwoven lives of Pluto’s Native and non-Native communities, whose members repel and attract, nurture and avoid each other, who love, hate, marry, and betray one another.

Evelina Harp – whose family ancestry reaches back to a direct affiliation with Louis Riel, the legendary political and spiritual leader of the Canadian Métis (Native Americans of mixed indigenous Native/First Nations and European heritage) – is the novel’s most youthful voice, who is plagued throughout by impossible love. When she’s not suffering from impassioned self-absorption, Evelina channels the stories of her near-centenarian grandfather, Mooshum; even as his tall tales often prove unreliable, his venerable age makes him the town’s de facto historical harbinger.

What Evelina doesn’t or can’t share is filled in by Judge Antone Bazil Coutts, Evelina’s uncle-by-marriage, whose distinguished demeanor masks an obsessive dead-end love story gone awry; Marn Wolde, the suffering wife of a magnetic evangelical preacher who was once a paid kidnapper; and Doctor Cordelia Lochren, the area’s first female doctor, who retires in her later years as the first and final president of Pluto’s historical society.

Like proverbial puzzle pieces, a recognizable picture forms by story’s end – more specifically, what emerges most clearly is a gnarly family tree with branches both brutally pruned and surprisingly intertwined. That said, not every question gets thoroughly answered … with two-thirds of her trilogy to come, Erdrich still has a lot of explaining to do for her very, very lucky readers. Stay tuned …

Readers: Adult

Published: 2008


Filed under ..Adult Readers, .Audio, .Fiction, Native American

11 responses to “The Plague of Doves by Louise Erdrich

  1. What???? A trilogy??? I had no idea!!!

    • Me, neither! But I heard about it on NPR briefly, and then saw it again on Erdrich’s NBA page (which should be linked in the post above). A wonderful little conversation got brewing on BD’s Facebook page last Wednesday if you want a look-see: Our conversation is to be continued in person in January, yipppeeeee. If you’re local, feel free to join us.

      I am almost finished with Round House (and will be oh so impatiently waiting for #3), and am appreciating so many of the ‘secrets’ I would not have otherwise known had I not read Plague first … one short phrase that would mean nothing (about a historian) if you didn’t know the backstory is one of those breathtaking, wrenching moments that will haunt you for a long, long time. I could have just read it and missed something really really crucial. Makes me ever so grateful to have had Plague just magically appear on my iPod!! I don’t quite know how I got that lucky!

      So IF you have the opportunity, do read Plague first … that’s my two cents this Friday morning. Happy weekend.

      • I already read and reviewed The Round House, but I’ll look into that whole thing!

        I am not local, but I will be for at least 6 months to a year! I am doing some traveling with my husband for his job, so while we currently are in Denver, we’ll be in Boston for January and February, and then a Wash D.C. suburb from March-September, and then maybe after that as well for another 6 months.

        So maybe I’ll be able to join SOME event at some point! :)

        Thanks for all the information!


        • Well I should have looked! DOH! Since Round House is still probably pretty fresh for you, you might try reading Plague soonish … one of the sections reveals the love story of the Judge and Geraldine long before Joe surprised them.

          Your life sounds like ours was B.C. — before children! We moved some 17 times before finally getting stuck in DC, ahem. Holler when you arrive in our neck of the woods. We’ll have to talk books, books, books over good, strong tea.

          • That sounds great! My husband was accepted to a program with his job, so it’s moving for a year and a half, then back to Florida. I was an elem teacher before, and a book lover at heart so the opportunity for my book blog came at a good time for me!

            We’ll chat until then, of course, but we’ll meet up in a few months when I’m in D.C.

          • Peripatetic literary adventures! Sounds PERFECT!!!!!!!!!! Can I come along??!!

            Yes, definitely to DC meet! Looking forward indeed!

            P.S. Just finished Round House on afternoon run through muddy, snowy trails of Park City. Can’t wait for #3 — although patience is SOOOOOO not my virtue, ahem!

          • I know!!! It’s one of my pet peeves, to start a trilogy or series without all of them being out already because I’m DYING to know what happens next. Lately, I’d rather put off reading a series until all of the books are out, and then have a field day reading all of them in a week!

          • HAHAHA! I see we are very alike … although my limited patience runs out and I end up grabbing 1 and 2, and then wallow waiting for 3. Sniff, sniff. No control!!

            Do you know Amitav Ghosh’s Ibis Trilogy? Oh my, my, my … #3 ain’t out yet, but 2/3 of the trilogy (1: Sea of Poppies; 2: River of Smoke) thus far is pretty fabulous indeed.

          • No, but I’m going to keep my impatient self together and wait for 3 before reading 1 and 2! You’ll let me know when it comes out, because I know you will blog about it! :) I guess I can be impatient AND stubborn!

          • You’re a stronger woman than I could ever hope to be around books, that’s for sure!! Happy Sunday!

  2. Pingback: The Round House by Louise Erdrich | BookDragon

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