LaRose by Louise Erdrich
I earmarked Louise Erdrich’s brilliant LaRose as ‘must reread’ about fifty pages in; I’ve since granted it ‘give-this-copy-to-a-friend-and-buy-yourself-another-copy’ status. I want to get it into the hands of as many people as I possibly can.
Louise Erdrich was awarded the PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction in 2014, putting her in the company of Phillip Roth, Cormac McCarthy, Don DeLillo, Toni Morrison, and E. L. Doctorow. Erdrich’s The Round House won the National Book Award for Fiction in 2014. Her 2009 novel The Plague of Doves was a Pulitzer Prize finalist. Erdrich is one of very few Native American writers giving voice to a community which is generally not presented on the page. Erdrich is a legend; LaRose is the result of a literary legend writing at the top of their game.
Like most of her previous novels, LaRose is set on an unnamed fictional Indian reservation in North Dakota. This fictional universe – the setting of multiple narratives over a long career – has been compared to Marquez’s Macondo or Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County. Like these writers, Erdrich has the capacity to turn traumatic experience into beautiful literary magic.
The action in LaRose begins as Y2K approaches, and centres around two families, two houses, on neighbouring properties. The book opens with the accidental shooting and killing of the son of one house by Landreaux, the father of the other house. To fix what’s been done, Landreaux delivers his own son, LaRose, to the other house, saying ‘Our son will be your son now.’ But this act only opens a door into this fictional world, peopled by complex and complicated and strange and troubled and beautiful characters. This book is about intergenerational trauma, history, justice, love, and magic, and the power and resilience of the human heart.
Ed Moreno works as a bookseller at Readings Carlton.