the wonderful world of veena.

12 May 2014

book review: the round house [louise erdrich].

I'll be honest, this was a pretty difficult book for me to get through. The primary plot, which revolves around a Native American woman being raped on a reservation in North Dakota in 1988 and the ensuing difficulties in launching an investigation into it, was difficult enough to read about on a human level, but I also found Erdrich's writing to be slow and plodding in parts.

I've heard a lot and read a bit in recent years about the difficulties women living on reservations face. Not only is the rate of domestic violence and the prevalence of rapes high on reservations, but jurisdiction also becomes difficult, with state police, tribal police, and the FBI all claiming various roles in investigations. Most reports say that 1 in 3 Native women will be raped in their lifetime, and according to the Afterword of Erdrich's book, 86% of these rapes and sexual assaults are by non-Native men.

Because the justice system works more slowly on reservations, and because many women do not report being assaulted - making those numbers even higher than 1 in 3 - you don't hear much in mainstream media about the crimes against women that are occurring unless you take the initiative to learn about it or know someone who is from states where there are larger populations living on reservations, such as in North Dakota. Strides have been made in recent years to increase prosecutions and convictions of these cases, but it is a slow process and still has a long way to go.

Having heard some of these sobering - and sad - statistics before, I was quite interested in reading this book. I was intrigued to learn a bit more about how things are run on a reservation, and since this book won the National Book Award in 2012, I thought it would be a good option. And while I can see why critics took to the book and got caught up in Erdrich's rich descriptions of life on a reservation, it didn't quite do it for me.

The main narrator of the book is Joe, the 13-year-old son of Geraldine, the woman who gets raped in the opening chapter of the book. We follow Joe in the months following his mother's attack as he sees her recovery and regression and teams up with his friends to launch their own investigation into what really happened, since the different authorities cannot decide who has jurisdiction in the case. We also see how Joe deals with being a teenager desperate to grow up but who occasionally lapses into childlike behaviours.

I finished the book a little over a week ago, and when I think back, the biggest thing I remember is reading for pages and pages where it didn't seem like anything really happened. Erdrich's descriptions are very detailed and thorough, but I guess I just like a little more action in my books, so having to get through such long build-ups wasn't really my thing.

I wouldn't say I disliked the book, because I didn't, but it wasn't my favourite. And honestly, because it took me so long to read - nearly the entire month of April - by the time I got to the end, I had forgotten some of the details from the beginning.

All that being said, however, if this is a subject matter you're interested in, you might "enjoy" it more than I did. It was by no means a bad book; it just wasn't a good book for me.

currently reading: One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories [BJ Novak]
next from the list: Infinite Jest [David Foster Wallace]

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