With thanks to Netgalley for providing me with an Advanced Reader Copy in exchange for an honest review. LaRose was published in paperback, hardcover and as an ebook by Little, Brown Book Group UK, Corsair and HarperCollins in the USA on 10 May.
“Don’t you love that word? I fit these connections to other connections until a huger connection emerged.
“What are you talking about? Elide doesn’t mean that. It means erase.”
In a small, close-knit Ojibwe (Native) community in North Dakota at the turn of the last century, five-year-old Dusty Ravich is killed by his neighbour, Landreaux, in a hunting accident. Wracked with guilt, Landreaux attempts to bring the grieving family justice by giving them his own young son, LaRose, as compensation. This act—shocking and inconceivable by most people’s standards today—is rooted in traditional Ojibwe teachings and comes out of goodwill and a desire for peace to again descend on the wounded family. Of course, it also results in emotional trauma for the family of LaRose, and for LaRose himself.
A series of events is unleashed which stretches beyond the two families and into their extended kinfolk and even as far back as their ancestors. For LaRose is not the first LaRose, but only one in a long line of LaRoses from his mother, Emmaline’s, line. While telling the story of LaRose and his (now) two families, Erdrich also tells the story of the first LaRose, who was sold to a cruel trader in 1839.
As with all of Erdrich’s books, the past mingles with the present—both in her telling of the story and in terms of the effect the past has on the present-day reality of her characters. While Erdrich shows what it’s like to live on a reservation with its inherent lack of resources and legacy of sorrow, she also (and perhaps more importantly) shows the richness of Ojibwe culture and tradition, the complexity of family life, the friendships which endure despite themselves and the inner strength and resilience of her people.
My favourite aspect of Erdrich’s novels is the way in which she tells her stories. Everyone in the community is a character with their own history—and opinion—regarding the events at hand, and she lets them tell it. This makes for a rich, humane and often humorous reading experience which I cannot begin to do justice to in the space of this review. Her stories resonate far beyond their pages and need to be turned over at length in order to fully appreciate them. This is not to say that they are difficult to understand—far from it—only that they are stories you’ll want to revisit. LaRose is no exception to this.
You can purchase LaRose from Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B0182J5NVG/
Order it in from your local independent book store.
Or, consider supporting Birchbark Books, Louise Erdrich’s own book store specialising in Native writers and artists, and order it direct from them (she signs all books sent from the store): http://birchbarkbooks.com/louise-erdrich/larose