Louise Erdrich’s coming-of-age novel, The Round House, is narrated by Joe Coutts, a Native American, who recollects the tragic events that happened in his life in the summer of 1988, when he was thirteen. Although he’s a college educated adult, a lawyer no less, he uses the voice of a 13-year-old boy, which points to Erdrich’s brilliance as an author.
Joe’s mother is viciously attacked. His father, a tribal judge, cannot bring justice to his family not because he’s incompetent, but because the US laws do not always protect Native Americans. HIs family, previously loving, caring, and happy, is on the verge of falling apart. Joe is suddenly facing adulthood, his adolescent years, so important for his psychological growth, are in jeopardy.
The Round House is a novel of injustice and retribution, of crime and punishment, of family love, of suffering and redemption. It is filled with rich folk tales and humor. The exploits of Joe and his buddies, trying to play detectives, keep you in stitches.
It was an eye-opener to me that this indigenous people, whose land was taken by violence centuries ago, has no equal rights with the majority population—to this day.
Louise Erdrich’s love and respect for her heritage is obvious throughout the entire book.