Sunday, March 19, 2017

LaRose, by Louise Erdrich

The name “LaRose” has been passed down through several generations of a Native-American family and those who bear the name are special.  The newest LaRose is a boy, unlike those who bore the name before him.  Six years old, he is youngest of the five children being raised by Landereaux and Emmaline Iron.  The eldest, Hollis, is actually not their kin, but the son of Landereaux’s childhood friend, Romeo, whose life has been ruined by alcohol, drugs, and resentment.  He is bitter about the success of his former friend, who had a hand in the serious boyhood injury that left Romeo a cripple.  LaRose’s best friend is his cousin, Dusty.  Dusty is the son of Peter and Nola Ravich – Nola is Emmaline’s half-sister and Peter is not Indian – and he has an older sister, Maggie.  The Irons live on the reservation and Peter and Nola live just adjacent to it.  In the fall of 1999, tragedy occurs when Landereaux, an accomplished hunter, is out after the buck he has been watching all summer.  He shoots it on his friend Peter’s land, where he often hunts, and is horrified to find that somehow he has killed Dusty instead of the deer.  To atone for this mistake and following an ancestral way, he and Emmaline take LaRose to the Ravichs to live with them in Dusty’s place.  Both families struggle with the grief that this event has set in motion.  This beautifully written story weaves together the members of the two families and how they handle love, loss, and justice.  It also speaks powerfully of the shameful treatment of Native-Americans by white settlers and governments.  A thoughtful book that is a worthy addition to Erdrich’s long list of affecting novels.  372 pp.

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